Dental Dean Update — What's in a Name?

Dental Dean Update — What's in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

You might wonder why this short article has the title "What's in a Name?". In the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, this famous line relates to the fact that Juliet was prevented from marrying Romeo because of the blood-line feud between their two families and she complains that Romeo's name was all that stood between them and marriage.

Over the last few months Dental Executive has been involved in a variety of meetings with a number of external UK stakeholders who are involved in quality assuring, delivering and regulating postgraduate dental training in the UK. We are intertwined with many of these, and at times, we sense a degree of frustration. As the names of many of these institutions can be confusing, I thought this would be an opportunity to try to demystify the architecture of postgraduate dental training in the UK.

Furthermore, many of the College staff often ask me why we have so many acronyms in dentistry and what each group does. I have to admit that despite having being involved in postgraduate dental education and assessment for the majority of my career, I sometimes also have to stop and think what each acronym stands for and the remit of each group!

At the top of the tree in the UK we have the GDC, the General Dental Council. In every country across the globe, there is a dental regulator involved in setting standards, ensuring patient safety remains paramount, encouraging continuing education and where necessary, intervening to prevent unscrupulous members of the profession from practising. The UK GDC is the ultimate governing body for the Faculty of Dental Surgery and indeed all the other groups and stakeholders that I will outline in the next few paragraphs. Everything that we do within the Faculty is firmly focused on the standards of practice of dentistry within the UK, and it is reassuring for our Members and Fellows across the globe that this is a high standard to work to.  

Next down in the list of acronyms is JCPTD, the Joint Committee for Postgraduate Training in Dentistry. JCPTD oversees foundation and specialty training in dentistry within the UK through the Specialty Advisory Committees (SACs) reporting through the Advisory Board for Specialty Training in Dentistry (ABSTD) and Advisory Board for Foundation Training in Dentistry (ABFTD), with both in turn, reporting to the Joint Meeting of Dental Faculties (JMDF). Our Faculty is well represented with a member of each of the Specialty Advisory Boards (SABs) sitting on each of the SACs. These representatives work hard for and on behalf of the Faculty to provide two-way communication between our Faculty and the SAC.

JMDF comprises the four Deans of the Dental Faculties of the Royal Colleges in the UK and Ireland. JMDF was instituted by a former Dean of the RCSEd Faculty of Dental Surgery, Professor Dorothy Geddes, and is one of her lasting legacies. In recent times, the Vice-Deans have also been invited to these meetings. Will McLaughlin, our Vice-Dean, provides significant additional insight into many of the items on the discussion due to his extensive experience. This board overseas current intercollegiate examinations through the Tri-collegiate Specialty Membership Executive (TSMEE) and the Specialty Fellowship Examination Executive (SFEE).

TSMEE is concerned with the delivery of summative assessments for Special Care Dentistry, Oral Surgery and Paediatric Dentistry. SFEE delivers the examinations at ISFE (Intercollegiate Specialty Fellowship Examination) level, marking the end of training undertaken prior to becoming a UK Consultant. It often surprises me that these examinations are not available internationally, blocking international dentists from being accorded College Fellowship through an examination route. Dental Council are working within the College to address the inability for international graduates to become Fellows by examination, with a series of meetings across the College taking place.

RCSEd does not participate in SMEE, the Specialty Membership Examination Executive, which RCSEng and RCPSG run in relation to the summative specialty membership exams for the Restorative specialties and Orthodontics. As many Members and Fellows will know, we run our own membership exams in Endodontics, Orthodontics, Periodontics and Prosthodontics, which are a huge success in the UK and across the globe.

Going back to JMDF, in recent times, this group set up the Dental Curriculum Oversight Group (DCOG) which also has representation from a number of other stakeholders including COPDEND and the GDC to agree the plans for implementation of the new dental specialty curricula which will come into play from September 2024. COPDEND is the UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors, and this group are involved in postgraduate training in dentistry at all levels. There is a degree of concern that COPDEND have been overreaching in recent times and encroaching on areas of activity that are normally the purvey of the Royal Colleges. This will hopefully only be a temporary phenomenon.

Our Faculty is closely interlinked with the new curriculum developments and at this point in time, there is considerable discussion going on among the Colleges and with both the GDC and COPDEND around our permissive exams and the format of these for the future. A number of changes will be required for these examinations to map to the new dental specialty curricula and as the situation evolves, we will keep everyone in the Faculty and wider College updated on developments. It further remains that we are the only Royal College that maps to all of the GDC Standards for Education providers within the Standards for Specialty Education and it is incumbent on the other colleges to raise their standards without delay.

So, what’s in a name? While Shakespeare was a political and social commentator, his witness on how society operated remains true today in terms of how people and groups interact. We have a plethora of group names and acronyms in dentistry, and I hope this short article has provided some information on each along with the role of each group in relation to education and assessment. The Faculty of Dental Surgery is a key contributor across postgraduate training in dentistry in the UK and I would argue, the driving force in both maintaining current standards and setting new standards for the future.

 Grant McIntyre, Dental Dean

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