UQ Dentistry braces for a new era

30 November 2017

Over the course of the last few years, UQ’s School of Dentistry has undergone many changes.

The largest of these has been the relocation of the School and its clinics from Turbot Street in the city to the newly built Oral Health Centre at Herston. This relocation has occurred at the same time as major alterations to the teaching curriculum and to the structure of clinical operations. That all of these changes have been able to be implemented relatively smoothly owes to the careful guidance and vision of the Head of School, Professor Pauline Ford.

Professor Ford set the bar high from day one when she became the first female dental Head of School in Australasia. She has a clear direction for the future, and is dedicated to making the school a leader in all areas of teaching and research.

“The past 12 months have been a rollercoaster, with some of the most exciting and gratifying moments in my career to date,” Professor Ford said.

“I wouldn’t swap it for anything, I have developed some new-found skills and strengths and also grown to understand the University and the ways that it operates in order to provide the most most favourable outcomes.”

Professor Ford spent the majority of last year planning for a new partnership with the public sector, forming an alliance between UQ and Metro North Hospital and Health Services (MNHHS). UQ is responsible for the academic function of the alliance, providing evidence-based teaching and clinically focused research, while MNHHS provides clinical service delivery and clinical supervision of students.

This mutually beneficial agreement combines the strengths of both organisations and alleviates the inefficiencies associated with operations which are not core activities.

“The alliance is not just about bringing together two parties, it has created a catalyst in which has developed a new way of thinking around academic teaching, service delivery, research and public health,” Professor Ford said.

MNHHS bring with them an outstanding history of delivering high quality clinical care and many talented professionals that enable UQ students to learn from the best. The enlarged number of clinical staff will also improve community access to services, benefiting the students’ learning experience.

“The alliance will ensure that a student’s time in clinics will be more efficient so they can actually see more patients and learn from a greater diversity of patients,” Professor Ford said.

“Additionally, the range of learning opportunities for students will increase with our general anaesthetic theatres and other specialist observations becoming operational shortly.”

Professor Ford has spent much of her professional life researching and enhancing dental care for the disadvantaged, and sees the alliance as another opportunity for dental students to improve the quality of life of those in need.

“Almost all oral disease is preventable, so rather than investing time into finding solutions for already occurring issues, I am more interested in what we can do to proactively create health for people, which is particularly pertinent to those who may have a social disadvantage,” Professor Ford said.

“Our students are committed to providing healthcare to those who require it most. Research assistant and oral health therapist Nicole Cockburn won an award for her Dental Rescue Week for youth experiencing homelessness, and our existing partnership with Ozcare gives free dental care to men in South Brisbane hostels."

Words: Emma Mackenzie 

Photos: Anjanette Webb