Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals

Catherine SternbergCatherineSternberg

Where did you qualify and when?

Birmingham University. 1993, I was the last 4 ½ — year cohort. Specialist list Oral Surgery 1997.

What attracted you to dentistry?

I loved ‘making and doing’ things with my hands from a very young age. I also liked caring for people and this enabled me to fulfil all those innate desires. Furthermore, I can never sit still for very long, so a desk job would have out of the question.

What are your current responsibilities in the profession?

For the main I have a busy NHS Specialist Oral Surgery Contract and a super associate to help me deliver it. There are professional responsibilities to the patients, NHS England and my own staff to keep this running as a 5 star service every single day and care for patients in a way that I would want to be looked after if I were the patient.

In addition, I have my own private Oral Surgery business in Oxford and provide adhoc cover for the NHS Trusts in Oxford and Winchester.

Catherine’s dental story

As I approached graduation, I knew that I wanted to do Oral Surgery. However compulsory VT had just begun and so I found myself in general practice. Things did not go well for a variety of reasons and 8 months later I found myself resigning from VT and starting a 2 year OMFS SHO job in Taunton. I loved this job – the challenges, learning, people and colleagues were all fantastic. The hours of revision for FDSRCS were not so great but I learned huge amounts from everyone around me and wondered how on earth I ever thought I knew anything at all when I graduated!

My next role at Poole hospital (where I learnt about free-flaps and tracheostomies) was more than hard work as the hours were exhausting (this was pre-junior doctors hours revolution) but made passing the second part of FDS easy as I had been exposed to the whole spectrum of clinical practice by this stage.

From there I moved to Guys hospital to do six months of oral pathology, oral medicine and radiology. This was the first time I had worked in a teaching hospital and despite thoroughly enjoying it and all London had to offer, I missed surgery and so followed my husband to Oxford where I did another year as an SHO in OMFS before moving on to a Staff Grade and then Associate Specialist position for many years. Tiring of having so much responsibility but without the credit, I hankered after a Consultant post and finally achieved this in Southampton where I stayed for 7 years. This role finally allowed to me to lead a department and work with managers to make changes. It is a constant battle though, with all the complaints and grumbles coming to you, personality clashes, targets and staffing issues!

Then in 2015, the local Oral Surgery commissioning changes gave me the opportunity to bid for my own contract based in primary care. Having got to know many of the local practitioners through a previous role as a Regional Adviser for the then Deanery, I was able to pair up with a practice owner and successfully secure a contract. Going back into primary care has been amazing – so liberating to be able to run your own show! Of course there are all the normal NHS rules and regulations but having the freedom to be able to deliver care in the way I know works for patients and staff alike has been wonderful. And these days with social media feeding back on my practice every day, I will know immediately if the service is not up to scratch. Fortunately, however that has not been the case and long may it stay that way…

What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?

Bidding for a tender all by myself and winning it. It was completely exhausting and nerve wracking but in doing so, told me I was good enough to do what I am trained to do.

What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?

Ignore all the people who try and put you down, do not rise to them but instead rise above and find your own way. The hours you put in will pay off, eventually!

Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?

Janine Brooks – she has a marvellous way of understanding how hard it is being in oral surgery and made me believe in myself (sorry if that’s embarrassing but it’s true!)

Clive Pratt – Consultant OMFS – unfailing positive trainer when I was an exhausted SHO in Poole.

How have you used mentoring throughout your career?

Not formally, but I’m sure all those on the run corridor conversations with fantastic colleagues count for something if you add them all up over the years!


Who We Are:

Dental Mentors UK is run by two experienced dental mentors.
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We believe that all dental professionals would benefit from regularly working with a mentor from a personal as well as a professional point of view. Mentors are experienced dental professionals who can guide and support you throughout your career.

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