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Dentistry and Leadership

Clinical academics often make good candidates for a variety of leadership roles. Now let’s think about how dentists can be involved in leadership and why they should be.
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So I’m Jeremy Bagg. I graduated in 1979 from the University of Edinburgh Dental School. My specialist area is in microbiology and infectious diseases. In relation to dentistry I’m I’m currently head of the dental school here at Glasgow, so one of the career options for a newly qualified dentist after they’ve done some clinical experience activity maybe working as a Junior hospital dentist is to become clinical academic and what that means is you’re a dentist who works within a university dental school like the one here at Glasgow. Most people who become clinical academics develop an area of clinical expertise might be in one of the branches, for example of dentistry itself like restorative dentistry.
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Personally, I trained as a microbiologist and became a consultant in oral microbiology. Here for the local health board. Of course, all the young dentists have been trained, so one of the big areas of activity for clinical, academic and dental school is training. Those who come from school, sometimes from more mature background and study for five years to become a dental surgeon. But in addition, there are those who decide they want to do a clinical specialist training. And so we also get involved in postgraduate clinical training. And of course dentistry is a rapidly evolving.
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Subject Area, like all healthcare disciplines and so one of the other very exciting areas is to get involved in research, which again maybe research about the cause of oral disease. It may be about research on how we prevent disease, or indeed how we treat those diseases. And then, of course there’s also an element. Potentially when you get to sort of more senior levels of undertaking some of the administration around managing the dental school and linking with the main university. So they’re the main activities I would say of a clinical, dental academic.
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I mean the beauty of this type of job for me and I’ve been a clinical academic now for 39 years, which I’ve loved every minute of it is the variety, but with the variety goes the need to keep a number of balls in the air at the same time, and one has to be very careful with time management. The more senior you become, typically, the more balls you’ve got to juggle, and it is simply a question of being organized. And being able to prioritize. I love the interaction with loads of people.
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I think I’m very much a people person and that goes for both the students and we’re extremely fortunate in dentistry to select the most amazing students, many of whom after graduation have become continuing friends of mine. We have a tremendous staff here in Glasgow, so you know, it’s never a day when I literally come into work and wish I was somewhere else. I really enjoy what I do. That probably for me is the most rewarding thing most recently and just to show the sort of variety available to a clinical academic, I’ve become very involved in Malawi. We’ve established Malawi’s first ever dental school. We’re working with the ministry there to develop an oral health policy for the country.
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They’ve never had a policy before in this area and that also have to say is incredibly rewarding and has become something of a passion as I move towards retirement. When I’ll have extra time to devote to that particular activity.

Clinical academics often make good candidates for a variety of leadership roles. Now let’s think about how dentists can be involved in leadership and why they should be. Professor Bagg is the Head of a Dental School but there are lots of other leadership roles that dentists can do at every stage of their careers.

As a student there are lots of opportunities to be involved in shaping your education and feeding back the views of your fellow students by becoming your class representative. This will allow you to sit on staff/student committees and give other students a voice. You might also get involved in the committee of your university dental student society. Student societies often organise social events and get involved in fundraising for charities. All of these are great things to put on your CV and will demonstrate your willingness and ability to lead when applying for jobs.

Dentistry Organisations

Other opportunities for young dentists include becoming involved in the local branch of the British Dental Association or volunteering for committee work at one of the Royal Colleges. These are very different organisations, the first more involved in things like negotiating pay and conditions for dentists while the colleges are heavily involved in postgraduate education and examinations. Most royal colleges have a trainee committee and actively encourage young dentists to get involved. As you progress in your career you may take on more senior roles within these organisations which give you the opportunity to influence things that affect the profession at a senior level.

Run Your Own Dental Practice

Within a dental practice setting you may choose to buy and run your own practice, the skills required for this leadership role are similar to those you’d need to run any small business. You’ll take care of recruitment, HR issues, rota management, contracts, payroll, stock ordering and many more things. Most practice owners are very good at multi-tasking.

Hospital Dentistry

Within the hospital setting there are teams of managers who run the NHS service and there are opportunities for clinicians to become involved in leading clinical teams and working closely with NHS managers to run the clinical side of the service. You might become a clinical lead for your speciality or the clinical director for a hospital or service. In these roles you’ll be involved in line managing clinical staff, managing patient waiting lists, overseeing clinical governance and you may be able to contribute to service development, design and innovation.

Leadership Opportunities for Clinical Academics

Clinical academics are also involved in leadership and may lead academic departments or be responsible for particular areas of clinical teaching. You might even end up leading the admissions process.

Other opportunities for leadership include getting involved in specialist societies and charity work.

Here’s a fun fact: did you know that the National Clinical Director of the NHS in Scotland Professor Jason Leitch is actually a dentist and worked as an oral surgeon for many years before taking up a post at the Scottish Government? He now takes a lead role in running the entire NHS in Scotland.

So, hopefully you can see that there are leadership opportunities at all levels and in all areas of dentistry and beyond that give you a chance to shape and influence the profession and the wider NHS system.

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Becoming a Dentist

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