Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Where did you qualify and when? University of Leeds 1990
What attracted you to dentistry?
When I was at School I was offered the opportunity to do some work experience in a dental practice and a community dental clinic. I loved it from the moment I went into the surgery. Dentistry offers an amazing opportunity to make a difference to someone’s wellbeing, and to make them feel better about themselves. I would consider myself to have a caring nature, an inquisitive mind and a good communicator; therefore I see these skills as being well suited to a dental career.
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
I am the Director of DCP Training at Bristol Dental Hospital and School, and Programme Director for the BSc in Dental Hygiene and Therapy. We are a large training School at Bristol, offering a number of training programmes including Dental Nursing, Orthodontic Therapy, and a number of post qualification programmes including dental radiography and dental sedation. I am responsible for overseeing the quality of all the School’s programmes ensuring programmes deliver the necessary learning outcomes, following academic policy and quality enhancement. I teach on a number of dental programmes including the BDS programme, Diploma in Orthodontics and the BSc Dental Hygiene and Therapy. I also undertake clinical sessions within the specialty of Orthodontics.
Sarah’s dental story
I qualified initially as a Dental Nurse, and then went on to qualify as Dental Hygienist, before being appointed as a research Hygienist for the MRC based at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. This was an innovative appointment at that time, and offered a fantastic opportunity to work alongside some leading academics. One aspect of the work I was involved with was evaluating a new periodontal electronic probing system- the Florida probe which enabled precise electronic periodontal pocket measuring and computer storage of data. The appointment was linked to the Dental Hygiene and Therapy School where I worked one day a week as a clinical supervisor. It was through that post that I decided I wanted to work in a Dental School, and was fortunate to be appointed as a part time staff Hygienist and then tutor Hygienist at Bristol Dental Hospital and School. I combined the appointment with appointments in General Practice, before being appointed as Director of the DCP School in 2000.
The post was to bring the different DCP training programmes into one School, and to identify and develop opportunities for new initiatives and dental programmes.
I completed my Masters by research in Oral Microbiology, under the supervision of Professor Howard Jenkinson and Dr Jane Luker.
I have always been interested in the Scope of Practice for Dental Hygienists and Therapists, and destination data of registrants when they qualify from Dental Schools. For many years we offered a progressive training pathway for Dental Hygienists, offering Dental Therapy as a part time post qualification training only. This facilitated the uptake of their Therapy skills once qualified, as they remained in employed as Dental Hygienists within their Dental Practices during the Dental Therapy training. Students found the skill mix a fairly easy transition, and their employers were very happy to employ them as Dental Therapists once qualified. Our destination is excellent in terms of the number of graduates working as Therapists once qualified. However, due to changes to NHS bursary training programmes, and responding to market demands, we are about to launch a new BSc (Hons) in Dental Hygiene and Therapy. This is a timely move as it coincides with the launch of the new BDS dental curriculum at Bristol, which has a strong focus on team working and collaborative practice.
I am looking forward to my next new and exciting chapter and being part of training the next generation of Dental Therapists!
What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?
This would have to be when I was appointed Interim Head of School, at Bristol Dental School. I believe was the first time a DCP had been appointed as a Head of School, and at Bristol I was the first female Head of School to be appointed. It was one of the biggest challenges of my career to date, and one huge learning curve. However, I am so glad I did it.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
Take every learning opportunity that comes your way. Learn as much as you can from your experiences including your mistakes. Patience and perseverance will often make perceived obstacles and difficulties disappear.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
I am extremely grateful to a number of people who have given me the opportunity to broaden my career and who have had confidence in me attain the goals and challenges that have been presented to me.
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
I personally haven’t used mentoring in my career but it’s never too late to start and there is still a lot to learn!