It seems incredible that when the KCLDAA Weekend was hosted this time last year that we were only three weeks away from a complete national lockdown. None of us had any idea what was in store for us over this extraordinary 12 months. The enormous challenges faced by us all are all too familiar and alongside everything else the events that have profoundly altered both dentistry and education.
While the Committee recognised it was going to be impossible to organise any meaningful social gatherings for our traditional events at the beginning of March, it was also felt important to share the amazing efforts made by many to maintain clinical, educational and scientific activity at the faculty and associated dental hospitals. Professor Francis Hughes, President-Elect, was therefore commissioned to arrange a series of video presentations with those involved to restore a sense of normality at the Dental Institute. With immense help from Dr Jonathan San Diego and his team at King’s iTel, live contact with registrants interspersed with the video recordings was made possible. The Executive Dean, Professor Mike Curtis, Dean of Education, Professor Kim Piper, Clinical Directors, Dr’s Joanna Johnston and Rob Hale, and Student President Nima Kazempour along with Professor Mark Ide and Dr Mark Packer, Associate Deans for Postgraduate education provided insights into the strategy and thinking behind the return to teaching, research and clinical activity. Dr Flora Smyth Zahra explained the latest dental school module, Clinical Humanities and Wellbeing, devised for first year dental students/therapists hygienists. One of the students, Ilbrahim Essaji went on to describe his own project and value of a change in perspective.
An abbreviated form of the KCLDAA Annual General Meeting followed allowing alumni to appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes to promote the activities of the King’s Dental Alumni. President Vincent Barrett stressed the importance of ongoing communication highlighting the new and innovative Dental App which had been developed by former Student President Matt Billington. One of the initatives set up last year were the Young Alumni/Student prizes. The winners this year were Ronan Lee (essay), Tanaya Kirtikar (single tooth restoration) and Sunmeet Kandhari (case presentation). Dr Eric Whaites then updated on the progress of the Floor31/32 development. He expressed his thanks for the generosity of the Alumni in kickstarting this venture, announcing that the plan was to name the latest addition to the Tower “The Alumni Suite”. However, the planned start to the building works had stalled because of proposed contract changes by the preferred constructors. He remained confident the project would be a success.
In his report, Executive Dean, Professor Mike Curtis thanked hospital staff and faculty for keeping dental services available when all around had closed down during the first lockdown. Thanks also to Professor Kim Piper, Ms Polly Goodfellow and their teams for adapting so quickly to switching to teaching online, greater use of simulation with phantom head and haptic technology along with a new BDS curriculum and brand-new BSc in therapy and hygiene. Research projects had continued and there was the exciting prospect of new facilities on Floor 17 and the Hodgkin’s Building. He concluded by thanking Alumni for their ongoing support and pointed out that bursaries would be needed to aid undergraduate research projects this coming summer whose aim was to expose them to dental research and bolster their fledgling curriculum vitae.
Treasurer Tarik Shembesh’s report outlined the financial state of the Association which had been strengthened by a successful Dinner last year involving extra monies from the raffle, auction and sale of ties and pins. Secretary Jen Elliott confirmed that despite travel restrictions, the committee had still managed to meet via videoconferencing.
Vincent Barrett announced the prestigious Alumni Awards: Alumnus of the Year Professor Michael Escudier and Distinguished Service Award Alumnus of the Year Dr Jackie Brown.
Introductions were made to two of the research presentations. Dr Owen Addison “Helping keep the lights on in the Tower” identified that the new health threat from Sars-CoV-2 whose transmission associated with dental provision was largely unknown. The concern was to isolate the nature and variability of dental operatory generated contaminated aerosols, including their particle size, velocities and latencies in open plan clinics. It seemed the conclusion was to move away from air rotors and use electric micromotors while improving clinic ventilation.
Dr's Koula Asimakopoulou and Sasha Scambler followed on with their title” Covid19 is a killer-but I’ll be just fine”. This was a multicentre project reviewing attitudes of non-adherence to coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Within the groups questioned, it seems a mind-set of comparative optimism is prevalent suggesting these people have the outlook that they are unlikely to be infected, need hospitalisation or suffer severe effects of contracting the disease and therefore do not follow the lockdown guidelines. The hope was that the conclusions might help shape public health messaging to make communication more effective.
Professor Jenny Gallagher presented the eponymous lecture in honour of Professor Rod Cawson entitled “Challenges I have seen: A public health perspective on the future of dentistry”. An elegant review of the oral health of our nation, its dental workforce and innovative ideas for the future were encapsulated in a beautifully constructed and thought-provoking address. Professor Gallagher wove a superb story and while not diminishing the problems and issues of the dental health of the nation, there was plenty of encouragement within the challenges of the task ahead particularly in engaging the new generations of up and coming dentists.
The final act for President Vincent Barrett was the passing of the Badge of Office to President Elect Professor Francis Hughes. In the spirit of adherence to lockdown restrictions, this was done remotely but Francis had ingeniously crafted his own mock-up of the medallion to place around his neck before delivering his acceptance speech.
Said Professor Mike Curtis of the event:
“The Alumni Clinical Day at the beginning of March is an important event in the annual calendar of the Dental Institute and this year in particular it was important to communicate with our alumni to demonstrate how the Faculty and partner NHS Trusts have continued to operate to a truly impressive standard in the most trying of circumstances. The organising team behind the event – led by the Alumni President, Dr Vincent Barrett and superbly assisted by the iTel team of the Faculty – did a wonderful job in translating this year’s meeting into a virtual event. In fact the format worked so well I think there are lessons for how we might make use of similar technology for future Clinical Days although I am sure we will all look forward to the day when we can all come together in person to celebrate the achievement of our students, staff and alumni.”
The feedback from ‘Clinical Day Online’ was extremely positive and plans are already in place to enjoy a more sociable event at next year’s Dental Alumni Weekend on 4 & 5 March 2022. Please put the dates in your diary:
Friday 4th March 2022: John McLean Symposium, Hygienist’s and Therapist’s Meeting, Annual Dinner
Saturday 5th March 2022: KCL DAA Annual Clinical Day