Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Sue Gregory OBE,
BDS, MSc, MCCDRCS,, FFPH, FFGDP, FDS RCS
Where did you qualify? Royal Dental Hospital, London
What Year? 1976
What attracted you to dentistry?
I wanted to work with people, but doing something practical/active
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
Chairman of the Board Community Dental Services CIC
Non-executive Director Rodericks Dental
Sue’s dental story
After qualifying from RDH in 1976 I did House Officer posts in Paedodontics and Oral Surgery. Following this a long period in Community Dental Services in Bedfordshire, where my clinical interests were predominantly around special needs, becoming District Dental Officer for Bedfordshire in 1998. Whilst delivering special care dentistry I was very involved with the British Society for Disability and Oral Health, including acting as Honorary Secretary and then President.
I undertook a Masters degree in Dental Public Health, part time whilst continuing my clinical role over 1982/83. Prof Aubrey Sheiham took over leadership of the course halfway through and arrived like a thunderbolt to challenge our thinking. I realised that I could not effectively change situations and improve the position for many people from individual clinical delivery. What was needed was a population approach. In addition two national changes influenced a change in direction of my career- the “purchaser/provider split” in NHS commissioning and delivery, plus the development of the specialty of Dental Public Health. The Health Authority Chief Executive was fully behind the development of a consultant in dental public health post in Bedfordshire, which went out to open advert and I was happily appointed to in 1992. To maintain my clinical skills and links I undertook a session a week in private practice, treating children and phobics on referral. Dental public health was my real passion, I had joined the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry whilst studying for my MSc and was on the Executive Committee from 1996 to 2009, doing various roles including President of BASCD (2006/7) and Secretary, then Chair of the BASCD Consultants in Dental Public Health Group.
One of the most enjoyable areas of my career has been training, from vocational training through to specialist training in dental public health. It is wonderful to see those colleagues whom you have spent such intensive time with progress beyond training to rich lives and careers. I have also been involved in examining for a range of professional exams; BDS, MCCDRCS. FDSRCS(Eng). With wider involvement in public health, I sat on the Faculty of Public Health Honorary members committee from 2000 to 2005, working towards full integration of non-medics. I was a Faculty Assessor for them from 2001-08.
Whilst working as a consultant in dental public health I had a long-standing interest in the primary/secondary care interface and ensuring equity of service provision alongside reducing inequalities. In 2009 I was appointed as Deputy Chief Dental Officer, Department of Health. Within my wide portfolio, including dental public health, I was involved in the development and implementation of pilots to test a care pathway and quality and outcomes approach as a basis for reform of the dental contract in England. As part of the organisational changes in April 2013 I moved to the new body Public Health England as Director of Dental Public Health, together with the network of consultants in dental public health in England. I retired in May 2014 but continue to work within dental care as Chairman of the Board of Community Dental Services CIC, and Non-executive Director of Rodericks Dental Ltd.
What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?
Having been asked to Chair the working group to develop an evidence based toolkit for practice-based oral health improvement, the publication of “Delivering Better Oral Health” and its subsequent regular revisions to maintain the evidence base is probably the most significant outcome of my work.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
Reach for the sky. Don’t limit your aspirations either personally or professionally.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Crawford Macfarlane, who was the Area Dental Officer in Bedfordshire and gave me my first job in CDS. He encouraged personal development in many ways;
- fostering me to think innovatively to improve services for people with special needs and implementing a range of initiatives
- supporting post graduate growth; introducing me to BSDH and BASCD, allowing me to pursue an MSc in Dental Public Health
- helping me to believe in myself
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
I have had a range of formal and informal mentors throughout my career. These people have helped me to challenge my own thinking and find direction. They have provided a safe environment to explore issues, successes and failures and help me to get more out of myself.