Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?
From early on in my life, I decided that I wanted to be a dentist. I recall a discussion I had with my mother about this around the age of 8. Her response was that I could be anything I wanted to be if I put the time and effort into achieving my goal. I was keenly aware of the confidence she placed in me when she said those words. That belief in me which my mother expressed continues to spur me on to realise that dream and many other dreams. I owe so much to the strong woman my mother is.
On completion of my BDS at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals, King’s College London, I did my vocational training and then worked in General Practice. After about three years I realised that I felt unfulfilled. Much as I loved dentistry, I found General Dental Practice too monotonous for me.
I secured a position in the department of Community Special Care Dentistry at King’s College Hospital. Community Special Care Dentistry involves the provision of oral healthcare for children and adults with medical, physical, mental, intellectual and other special care needs.
This area of dentistry requires multidisciplinary collaboration between health and social care teams to ensure that patients receive holistic patient-centred care to meet their special needs effectively. I found the variety the role offered academically, clinically and spiritually stimulating and fulfilling. Furthermore, I enjoyed the teaching aspect of the role as I have always loved and engaged in teaching in dentistry and other areas of my life.
I then enrolled on a training post as a Senior House Officer in the departments of Orthodontics and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge. This allowed me to train for and become a Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
On completion of my membership exams, I returned to both the department of Community Special Care Dentistry at King’s College Hospital as a Community Dental Officer and to General Dental Practice on a part time basis. As the range of dental procedures provided to special care patients is somewhat limited by their special needs, my intention was to get the best of both worlds by developing my expertise in the management of dental patients with special care needs, as well as developing more complex dentistry skills in General Dental Practice.
My next move was to secure a position as a Senior Dental Officer working for Bromley Healthcare. In 2010, I became a specialist in Special Care Dentistry, following which I was headhunted and invited to apply for the position of Specialist Clinical Teacher at King’s College London, to work in the department of Sedation and Special Care Dentistry at Guy's & St Thomas NHS Trust.
One year later, I interviewed for and secured the position of Senior Specialist Clinical Teacher and was given the role of Programme Lead for the MSc in Special Care Dentistry. I developed the programme and increased the student intake from once every two years to a yearly intake. Three years later I was given the additional role of Programme Lead for the PG certificate in Advanced Clinical Dental Practice in Special Care Dentistry which I set up and developed. I have found my career fulfilling and am grateful to my family, friends, mentors and colleagues who have supported me along the way.
What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?
Early on in my role of Senior Specialist Clinical Teacher, I went through a phase where I found the volume and complexity of running two programmes very intense. I enrolled on the FoDOCS Mentorship Scheme and was assigned a mentor. My mentor had a wealth of experience and was of immense benefit and support to me for which I am very grateful.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
Find yourself a mentor to support and guide you in the different areas of your life. You could apply for one formally or approach someone you respect informally. In turn, be a mentor to those coming after you.
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?
We are all citizens of this earth with equal rights to grow and develop to our full potential. We all belong. We come with a wealth of backgrounds, cultures, educational preferences and needs. Variety is the spice of life. It offers life new and exciting experiences. You see it in different cuisines, scents, colours, traditional wear, and the list goes on. Let’s embrace it!