Dental Dean Update — Variety is the Spice of Life

Dental Dean Update — Variety is the Spice of Life

It has been several months since I became Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery and people always ask me if I am enjoying the role. The simple answer to this question is yes, but the reality is that in being Dean of our Faculty, I am never looking for anything to do. 

There have been many positive surprises that I had never expected, and it is the sheer variety that I find very engaging. This resonates with the proverb from the late 18th century ‘Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour’ by the English poet William Cowper and comes from his work “The Task”.

Whilst a number of tasks for the Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery include a wide variety of meetings within the Faculty and across the College, reading minutes, writing reports, signing diploma certificates, dealing with correspondence and so on, this office-type work is significantly outweighed by the more challenging and interesting aspects.

As I have highlighted before, the diploma ceremonies are a particular highlight where it is a genuine pleasure to celebrate career goal achievements with diplomates and their families. Our various engagement events are also enjoyable activities, with opportunities to meet existing members, and also make new contacts, many of whom aspire to become members of our College in the future. Our various Board meetings do involve a lot of work, but also give a lot of pleasure by making a positive impact and shaping the future.

Being Dean is much more than a task, and one of the recent pleasures has been to start investigating and learning more about the Heritage aspects of dental surgery within the College and in the wider world, as well as Edinburgh’s place in the history of surgery. The Surgeons’ Hall Museums are just incredible, and despite having had several visits to the museums over the years, I was privileged to have a guided tour a few weeks ago by Louise Wilkie, Curator. Louise showed me round the public facing part of the collection, but was also able to show me some of the items in the Museums' store. We discussed items that could potentially be beneficial for the Museums and if you would like to help with dental objects, specifically relating to orthodontics, implants, veneers, crowns, bridges and implants, please get in touch.

I have been given a tour of the College Archives by Jacqueline Cahif, RCSEd Archivist who showed me many of the treasures that the College holds from incredible historical objects to manuscripts and books. I had no idea our College cares for such an in-depth archive with exams, scripts, minutes and indentures from across the College’s history including those relating to the Bell dynasty, Sir Walter Scott, Simpson, Jenner and Mary Queen of Scots. I was blown away to discover that we hold some of Joseph Bell’s possessions, John Smith’s information relating to the formation of dental education in the UK and much more.

Steven Kerr, our Librarian has also given me some of his valuable time in recent months to show me some of the rare books we keep in the College and to help me with key pieces and items of information for my role as Dean. I am constantly taken aback by his impressive knowledge and expertise. Steven finds little nuggets of information for me about the College on a regular basis, much of which I never knew.

Cat Irving, the College’s Human Remains Conservator has a unique role in caring for and conserving the human remains collections, ensuring long-term preservation. Until recently I did not realise that the specimen collection requires considerable maintenance and upkeep. Cat has a wealth of medical and historical knowledge, as well as some wonderful stories about her role and the background to the specimens in the museum. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one of her talks, grab the opportunity with open arms.

Our heritage in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is one of the ‘unsung heroes’ of our College, and the time I have spent with the team that look after our remarkable resources is a jewel in the crown. The team is led by Chanté St Clair Inglis, Director of Heritage and Estates who ensures the College’s collections are used to their utmost to tell the stories of past and present, and the importance of our College and Edinburgh in the surgical and dental advances over the centuries. I would urge you to look at the masses of digital information on our websites below, and the next time you are at the College in Edinburgh, please take time to delve deeper and spend some time in the Museums, archives or library. You won’t regret it.

The Dental Collection - Surgeons' Hall Museums, Edinburgh (

Archives Overview | Library & Archive The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (

I had never expected to have the opportunity to be involved in so much variety in my role as Dean, and I look forward to some more unexpected surprises as I discover more about the role of being a Dean and a College trustee.

As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any comments at

Grant McIntyre, Dental Dean

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