Standing firm

Dr Joanna Sikorska takes the reins as President of the IDA HSE Group for what she hopes will be a brilliant centenary year for the IDA.

Could you tell me a bit about your background?
I’m a Polish graduate from a university in Poznan. My husband is a lovely Westmeath man and in 2012 we decided to move over here. Unfortunately, it was just the middle of the recession and there was an embargo on recruitment in the HSE, so I joined a private practice. In 2018, I joined the HSE and I’m still working in the same place in the Midlands in a full-time clinical post in Tullamore covering Laois/Offaly.

How did you get involved with the IDA and how did that involvement progress?
When I arrived in the country, I was just looking to be part of the community and was trying to upskill and improve my language to get better at what I was doing. I thought the IDA was a very good way of getting all those things together. I joined the IDA and I attended the roadshows. They were very popular at the time, and I found them very beneficial. I attended the Annual Conference. I thought it was a great way to connect with people, to learn from others, and to get your CPD points. I highly recommend the IDA to everybody, especially if you’re a foreign dentist, because it’s a great way to get to know the Irish dental sector.

What are your aims for your time as President of the HSE Group?
In one way it’s going to be a very tricky year and in another way, it’s going to be a great year. When it comes to the to the trickiness, it’s just a bit uncertain what’s going to happen because we are expecting changes in the dental sector with the new oral health policy, public and private.
I want to be visible. I want to be active. I want to be approachable, and I hope the members will talk to me and I’ll take everything under consideration. I want to help build the CPD programme for the public dental service, because I don’t think there’s enough. I will try to get involved in collaboration of the two sectors, the public and private, because the changes and the new policy are going to affect everybody. I think it’s going to be very important that we continue that dialogue and that we work together.
I want to add that I am very honoured and privileged, and very excited, to be the President for such a brilliant year next year, 100 years of the IDA, and the big celebrations. I want to tell everybody that I’m definitely going to be involved in all the celebrations and I will advertise it among the members to join me.

What has been the biggest benefit of IDA membership to you?
From my point of view as a foreign dentist, it’s the feeling of belonging, of community, and of support. On multiple occasions I had rung the IDA looking for advice and Fintan, Roisín and the team were absolutely brilliant. They’re very experienced and at this stage have probably dealt with anything and everything, so they know exactly what to do and where to go. They’re able to give you advice and help out straight away and I think that’s the biggest support, the feeling that somebody does have your back. That’s the way I find the IDA. I’ve met great friends. I’ve learned a lot from brilliant people. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

What are the big issues the Association needs to focus on?
The biggest challenge facing the dental sector is the difficulty in the recruitment and retention of staff, and simply the lack of a workforce to treat dental patients. I believe the situation is similar across the country. The IDA needs to stay actively involved representing all dentists, making sure it is being heard and acting in the best interests of our members.
The new oral health policy is very welcome, as current arrangements are insufficient, and the public and private sectors are simply overwhelmed, which is resulting in severe difficulties for patients in accessing dental care. As a full-time HSE clinician currently treating patients with additional needs, under 16s, and DTSS and refugee patients, I am simply wondering how the policy is going to be put into practice.
From the very beginning, the IDA stood strong and made a very strong statement and now we’re just going to have to defend it and make sure we are heard and that we stay involved and connected as one group of dentists, regardless if we are GDPs or public dental service.

Outside of dentistry
Joanna is a keen golfer, as is her husband and indeed their four children, and they all enjoy the sport together. They recently attended the Women’s Irish Open and Joanna says it was great to see Leona Maguire play, who she believes is a great inspiration. She would be interested in seeing if there is an appetite for more golf meetings among IDA members.