Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Where did you qualify? And when? University of Bristol 2010
What attracted you to dentistry?
When I was younger I had my own transformative experience with dentistry, I had ever so self-conscious spacing between my anterior teeth and as a result underwent cosmetic dentistry which transformed both my smile and the quality of my life. My confidence blossomed, I could smile brightly and I wanted to be able to help others in the same way, in particular to help vulnerable populations for whom a mouth that both looks and feels good could lead to real and lasting benefit.
From the outset I had a desire to work with vulnerable people. At the time of applying to the University of Bristol I made it known to the interviewing panel that my intention was to work with people with learning disabilities and vulnerable populations. At the time, Special Care Dentistry was not a recognised sub-speciality within dentistry but to my delight it is now formally recognised and there is a firm pathway in place to train dentists to provide care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
At present I am a full time doctoral research fellow. I am undertaking a PhD implementing HIV testing in dental settings in areas of high prevalence in London. I am deputy service organiser and shift leader for Crisis at Christmas Dental Service and Inclusive Dentistry Fellow for Pathway Homeless Healthcare Charity. I lecture on the Masters in Special Care Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Institute and provide pro-bono mentorship for dental students.
Janine’s dental story
After graduating from dental school I felt hugely disillusioned: trapped in the four walls of a dental surgery, funnelled into yet another pathway of foundation training and dental core training, wondering whether the hoop jumping and tick boxing would ever end and very uncertain as to how I could be an authentic version of myself within the boundaries of the profession. It was a happy accident then, whilst saving up to leave the profession all together and go travelling the world, I was recruited to work as a locum on a Nottingham-based mobile dental unit providing care for people experiencing homelessness and sex workers. In the few months I spent leading the outreach service a turning point happened in my life and I was left inspired to overcome inequalities in oral health. Later that year I joined Crisis at Christmas dental service and have since become deputy service organiser and shift leader. I have undertaken a role as inclusive dentistry fellow for Pathway Homeless Healthcare Charity and have visited homeless dental services in Boston, New Orleans and Copenhagen to explore examples of best-practice care. During this time, I was learning the skills to be a leader; I initiated and chaired the British Dental Association East Midlands Young Dentist Committee and developed formal and informal teaching sessions for the Dental Core Trainees in the region.
In 2014, I undertook a masters in dental public health awarded with distinction and the Royal College of Surgeons diploma in dental public health to gain a deeper understanding of how to develop dental services and understand the oral health needs of the population - I was back on track with my mission to provide inclusive dentistry and enable access to dental services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. My next career moves were to head to the Big Smoke to take up a dental officer role where I was the lead dentist on the homeless outreach service, a subsequent move to Northampton where I undertook a clinical fellowship in Special Care Dentistry which culminated in my application for academic speciality training in Special Care Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Hospital.
Although my career pathway may seem convoluted, the skills I’ve developed along the way are unique and have enabled me to understand the public health landscape, gain experience in primary, secondary and tertiary care environments and enabled me to develop a voice that can advocate for the needs of people experiencing social exclusion and stigmatisation.
The past 18 months have been spent in pursuit of the prestigious National Institute for Healthcare Research Doctoral Research Fellowship funding which I was awarded in October 2017. My current doctoral research project explores the feasibility of implementing HIV testing in the dental setting in London.
What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?
My most memorable achievement in the profession was the day we held the first, national Socially Inclusive Dentistry conference attended by almost 150 people. The conference was inspiring and lead to young dentists reaching out to connect with third sector services, develop their own oral health promotion initiatives with socially excluded people and write about the conference. After the conference a comprehensive summary of the learning outcomes from the day was published. A second conference is planned for late 2018. At the end of 2017, I was awarded the British Dental Association award for contribution to the association for the work I’ve undertaken with socially excluded populations and the recognition was truly heart-warming.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
Listen to that little voice inside that tells you that you have a purpose: Follow it, see where it leads. Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo. Stepping outside of the box does not mean than you cannot step back in when the time is right, perhaps older, perhaps wiser, perhaps as more of a fighter and bringing something unique to the table. There’s no need to rush, take the time to build yourself into the kind of person that you admire. Don’t worry about what others are doing, you are mapping a path that no one has trodden yet, allow yourself to fearlessly trail blaze. Go girl. You got this.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Andrew Dickenson, the post-graduate dean for East of England has been a constant inspiration and mentor throughout the latter part of my career. Andrew is a true blue sky thinker and is willing to invest time into developing ideas and people. He has encouraged me to teach, to take positions of leadership and continues to be a great support as I move forward in my career.
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
Mentorship has been a vital component to my continued success and motivation in the early years of my career. Mentorship has helped me to stay grounded, to focus my intentions on achieving my specific goals, and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Now that I am moving forward into academia I have been appointed Professor Sue Cunningham as my mentor at University College London. Sue provides a sounding board for any challenges I face as I transition from clinical dentist to clinical academic and keeps me focused on the bigger picture as I move forwarded into uncharted territory in my career.