Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals

Kay WorrellKay Worell

Where did you qualify and what year?

I qualified at Guy’s Hospital, University of London – BDS course – 1979 – I chose the course on reputation and the number of left-handed student units!


What attracted you to dentistry?

I had a penchant for science and was creative. I was the daughter of self-employed parents running their own business. As I was a first generation going to university, it was important my qualification provided me with instant job prospects and long-term security. I had been a regular attender at my own dentist needing restorations and orthodontic treatment. But I could not say I had a calling to a vocation.


What are your current responsibilities in the profession?

As I am at the end of my professional career, I am no longer very active. I am an ORE Examiner – the exam that is the entry ticket to dentists from abroad to get on to the Dental Register. I have just finished two jobs, Dental Tutor for the Oxford Deanery organising postgraduate courses for dentists and their teams to keep up to date and then, Clinical Adviser to a global dental supply company. Both of these were very part-time. But I am a King’s Mentor, and do some coaching formally and informally. I still want to give!

Kay’s dental story

Upon qualification, I did the, then normal and prestigious, House-job at Guy’s before entering General Practice. I worked for tree years as an Associate, before buying my own practice. I worked for 10 years in the NHS in total, enhancing my skills with carefully selected courses, embedding good practice, to see where my strengths would take me. I discovered the L.D. Pankey Institute in America and started my journey to be an holistic dentist. I started wearing dental loupes in 1987, going to courses in Florida, helping run practical courses (as an unpaid assistant) for dentists and technicians. I had a small private dental practice for 20 years. My staff were on the journey with me. We did excellent work, provided individual patient care with kindness and a smile, and had fun. It was a privilege to see the patients and their growing families, over the years.

When I sold the practice, I became a part-time Clinical Teacher at Guy’s in the Conservation Department. I always thought I would not be a good teacher because I thought I had no patience. What I discovered was that I was patient with others, not with myself! I found out I had been teaching for years, but had not realised it! My patients, my staff, my children were learning from me. And yes I have learnt to be more patient with myself!

I took Post-graduate teaching qualifications and this enriched the second part of my dental career. My experience in teaching and examining, and running courses was attractive to universities abroad. I accepted a contract to work in Saudi Arabia (part-time). It was a new university Dental Faculty and my responsibilities were to integrate the diverse clinical staff, review assessment, and write a manual for Clinical Teachers. My sister, Emma, was also given a contract to set up the dental laboratories, policies and procedures. We were Visiting Professors and sometimes travelled together.

I feel fulfilled in both chapters of my dental journey. At times I was juggling too many balls, with a growing family and a husband with his own business. My decision to sell the practice was due to the fact that, I could no longer invest the time that it deserved. I didn’t miss the drill – I missed the relationships! I sold the practice to the person I thought would love my patients, not the one who offered the most money. I still meet up with my staff and see my patients locally.

What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?

As a heart-led dentist my most memorable achievements, to me, are different from head-driven dentists. I was at work on a busy morning clinic, and my next patient came in. She took a while to get settled and she said, “ You know dear, I know you are very busy, but when I’m in the chair, it seems you have all the time in the world for me.” I was at a dental meeting and I met a dentist who had taken over one of my patients since I sold the practice. He mentioned this lady and remarked, that the work that I had done over 10 years ago (an occlusal adjustment and cosmetic work), had required no subsequent treatment. Yes I won some Prizes, Scholarships, was mentioned in Vogue magazine, but to me, that does not seem so memorable.

What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?

My advice to my younger self would be, believe in myself more and worry less!

The dental colleagues involved in Pankey were the greatest influence on my career. My values and beliefs were aligned with the philosophy. My dental practice was grown with these principles.

Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?

I have used mentoring throughout my career, without putting that name to it. The label did not exist then! But I had a network of friends and colleagues with their networks of contacts, who would be available to me and who I was happy to help. This arrangement ran from my personal and professional life to the school-gate and our local squash and golf clubs. I have lived in one area, (so there is no hiding place!) working in the community, happy to be of service.

It has been a privilege to part of the Dental Profession.

Who We Are:

Dental Mentors UK is run by two experienced dental mentors.
We are:

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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