Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?
I qualified as a dentist in 1990 and had been able to carry out some student research projects during my degree supported by some enthusiastic staff members in the dental anatomy team. I knew I wanted to try a PhD before I left dental school. I went into a fantastic practice which I loved as soon as I qualified but started my PhD 9 months later at UCL in the Anatomy department.
I spent 3 years happily investigating osteoclast behaviour whilst also working part time in practice and at the end I needed to complete a surgical maxillofacial SHO job so that I could sit the RCS exams. At the time there was no clear specialist training pathways, so staying flexible remained key. Eventually I ended back up at what was then known as ‘Barts and the London’ as a lecturer in Oral Medicine and then Oral Pathology.
I choose marriage over a post-doc and during my Oral Pathology training had my 4 children. Research got largely parked during this time and I started my first consultant post 3 weeks after having my last child. It was a time of lots of juggling and being lucky to have both a supportive husband and parents.
I stayed as an NHS consultant and held various academic roles in the university before switching over to a university contract. I went back to undertake a fantastic MA in education at UCL part time and by then was the Head of Admissions and WP at QMUL so my path in education was forged. I never forgot basic science and my love of osteoclasts, but my research roles remained in collaboration.
In education, I became very involved in pedagogical approach both in medicine and dentistry, ending up holding lots of roles in undergraduate and post graduate education. Thus in 2019, I came over to King’s where I am now the Dean for Education at the faculty. Leading the education for such a large faculty and seeing both the development of the new curricula and post graduate education alongside the real development and strength of our staff has been a huge privilege.
What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?
At the time not having a clear career path meant staying adaptable was key. It did mean, though, you got to experience other careers such as maxillofacial surgery and oral medicine which in the longer term was great. Not being put off by rejection when – largely - men get the roles has also been essential and building a strong support network of other women and men who believe in you is essential.
Having 4 children whilst training and doing exams is tricky, but it’s about juggling and deciding what’s important to you. Having friends and family who can help makes a big difference. I found living close to work meant I could get to events at the schools and do drop off or pick up on some of the school days and then get into work. I used to plan all the meals for the week and cook some the night before if I knew I would be late - the children got used to later dinners than most of their friends and a parent who would arrive by bike seconds before any concerts would start. Having colleagues who also supported flexible days was mission critical.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
Take a bit more time. Don’t be surprised that barriers to equity are still very much out there and ensure you keep championing how important equity is. Also, most importantly, enjoy every moment of life as there is no rewind.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Embrace Equity’. What does equity mean to you, and how can everyone (regardless of gender) embrace it?
Equity means giving everybody the chance irrespective of background. We can embrace equity by learning and understanding what makes us different and celebrating that alongside developing strong allyship roles. Where we see behaviour that isn’t equitable, we need to stand up and say so.