Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Where did you qualify and what year? Manchester University 1985
What attracted you to dentistry?
At school I always loved science and also working with my hands doing art, sewing and cooking. This combined with the fact that I am very much a people person and enjoy working with people meant that dentistry seemed a perfect fit for me.
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
I am currently a Consultant in Dental Public Health working in the national team at Public Health England as the national lead for child oral health improvement. This role is exciting and challenging and involves bringing together all those working with early years to achieve a shared ambition that every child should grow up free from tooth decay as part of getting the best start in life.
Your dental story
When I qualified I wanted to gain a broad experience in dental practice and discover which branch of dentistry was for me. I started with some time in general dental practice, a year as a house officer, followed by a split role as a community dental officer and a clinical lecturer in paediatric dentistry in the Manchester dental hospital. I knew then that I wanted to focus on working with vulnerable families and that I enjoyed a challenge!
I then followed my heart and moved to Yorkshire where I married settled down and had two children. I started work in the Bradford Community Dental service in 1989, I had found my niche and loved working here with families in areas of deprivation. I became a senior dental officer and eventually assistant clinical director with responsibility for dental surveys and oral health improvement. However I knew to really make a difference for these families I needed to be able to influence local policy and investment decisions.
This was a turning point in my career and I started thinking about preventing oral disease in populations and studied for a masters in dental public health at Leeds. A career in dental public health followed first as locum consultant for Hull and East Riding Health Authority then Bradford PCT combined with a senior lecturer post in dental public health at Leeds and later as consultant for Yorkshire and the Humber SHA. These roles gave me some fantastic opportunities and experience in both dental commissioning and oral health improvement. Highlights included; working as part of the dental commissioning team to commission three new dental practices in Bradford, to develop and use an innovative commissioning model focused on prevention and, with the public health team, developing a local oral health strategy and action plan with funding to implement population based supervised brushing and fluoride varnish programmes. I spent 24 very happy years working in Bradford first as a dental clinician and then as a consultant in dental public health.
The next phase of my career was to be in Public Health England, as consultant in dental public health and national lead for oral health improvement. I feel privileged to work in the national team at PHE and to have this role which involves bringing together leaders across the system with the shared aim of improving the oral health of children. I have led the publication of some key documents for oral health improvement - Delivering Better Oral Health (3rd edition) Smoke free and smiling (2nd edition), Commissioning Better Oral Health and Improving the oral health of children: cost effective commissioning.
A common theme throughout my dental story has been relationships with colleagues and teams. I enjoy working in partnership sharing ambitions and goals which brings greater satisfaction when you can achieve and deliver together. I have been honoured to be president of my specialist society BASCD and Patron of National Oral Health Promotion Group. In 2014 I received an MBE in Queens Birthday honours for services to dentistry.
What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?
The honour of being president of my specialist society the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
Enjoy each day, you spend a lot of your life at work so make sure you love it! Dentistry has lots of opportunities take on different roles and find the role that you can be passionate about. Everyone goes to work to do a good job appreciate this and be kind to those around you whatever their role. Never stop learning especially from others!
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Eric Alper my first District Dental Officer who gave me the confidence to stretch my wings! Sonia Williams who always assumed that I could do more than I thought I could and was never surprised when I did it! Sue Gregory for her strategic thought and insight, Sandra White for her irrepressible optimism and ability to motivate and influence.
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
I have mentored and been mentored throughout my career sometimes formally, but often as work colleagues supporting each other. Both have been really helpful for my personal development and often supported me through ups and downs throughout my career.