President of the Irish Dental Association Dr Anne Twomey introduces a special feature on the state of dental education in 2016.
This Journal has a very progressive Editorial Board. It has developed our publication steadily, over many years, to become the leading publication for dentists in Ireland. Two major surveys carried out in the last five years have established and quantified that fact.
One of the reasons it has become an essential read for dentists is because of its work as a journal of record. Five years ago, the Journal obtained great help and co-operation from the Cork and Dublin university hospitals and schools to record all of the students (and staff) at that time. By repeating the process again exactly five years later, again with great co-operation, the Journal has been able to record a full ten years of dental students in the Republic of Ireland. While doing this, the Deans of the time have graciously shared their time and views on the state of dental education. In 2011, it was Professors Allen and Nunn, and now we have Professors Kinirons and O’Connell. They share with readers the developments in dental education in the last five years, and the challenges that are emerging due to the rapid developments in the science and technology of dentistry.
Unity on the vocational training issue
While it is university-based training, it has to be clinical as well as academic. It is worth recording that the hospitals collectively are treating more than 150,000 patients every year. This affords our senior cycle students the chance to avail of real clinical experience – under close supervision, of course. And the standard of dentist that our universities are producing is very high. They are ready to practise (as opposed to being well-trained beginners, which is the case in some countries in Europe) but all parties in dentistry agree that they would benefit from a vocational training scheme. The Irish Dental Association, together with both UCC and TCD, and the RCSI, have met with Ministers Varadkar and Lynch and collectively argued for the reintroduction of the vocational training scheme. It appears that it is being considered under the auspices of the development of the National Oral Health Strategy, in which case we say: the sooner we have that policy the better, because our graduates are losing out because of the lack of an appropriate scheme.
Your future colleagues
I invite you to read the views of the Deans of the Schools and to reflect on the diversity of dental students in the Cork and Dublin dental schools at this time. It may also be very useful to put this Journal away somewhere safe as you may enjoy looking back on it in years to come – it may well contain photographs of your future colleagues. Most of all, enjoy the sense of vibrancy and vitality that it gives to our profession by knowing that we can look forward to years more of high-calibre, well-trained professional colleagues.