In a new series for the Journal, we will speak to a member of the IDA in each issue about what membership means to them.
Dr Saoirse O’Toole is doing a PhD in dental erosion in King’s College London, and also working as a clinical teacher, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting involved in the IDA and becoming a member of Council.
What led you to first get involved in the IDA?
I first joined as a student because it was free. After a couple of years in England I came back to Ireland and I was looking to get more involved in the Irish dental community. Although I was already a member of the IDA, I hadn’t previously served on any committees. Dr Gillian Smith suggested getting more involved and she put me forward for nomination for Council. I was seconded by Dr Ryan Hennessy and I was elected at the AGM in 2011 in Galway. It all happened quite quickly really.
How has that involvement progressed?
I was quite intimidated at my first meeting, but everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I was quickly put at ease. I was also made to feel that my contribution was valued.
I’m very interested in research and initially got involved in researching the topic of community water fluoridation for Council, preparing a one-page position paper with Dr Jacinta McLoughlin in the Dublin Dental School and Hospital. Everyone on the Council is a volunteer who gives up a huge amount of time, and I love being able to do a bit of research here and there to strengthen any arguments that we might make.
What has your involvement in the IDA meant to you?
It means a lot to me. For me the IDA is a fantastic resource not only for finding out what’s going on within dentistry in Ireland, but also for talking about it with other dentists. I came back to Ireland during economic depression and the IDA gave me a platform to talk about the cuts in the medical card, the PRSI system and the decline in the oral health of the population.
I think the continuing work that the IDA is doing in attempting to highlight this to the Government is really important. I had no idea how much campaigning the IDA and IDU did until I started on Council. It is a great way of getting involved and feeling that you are in some way making a difference.
What has been the single biggest benefit of IDA membership for you?
That feeling of connection with the profession; getting to talk to other dentists about everything from practice to Government dental policies, and knowing what’s going on. Dentistry can be quite isolating and frustrating when you aren’t as established in your practice and area, and I found the IDA to be a great network of interested people.
How would you like to see the Association progress into the future?
I’d love to see more young people getting involved. It’s so easy and important to get involved in your local branch and get talking to people. There is always a need for volunteers and everyone’s opinions are taken on board. We are so small as a profession, that the more people that get actively involved, the stronger we are and the more able to make a difference as an organisation.
For now, Saoirse is working hard in London, with regular trips home for Council meetings. A keen swimmer and surfer, she misses the sea, but occasional trips to Cornwall will have to substitute for the west coast of Ireland.