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An insight into the Institute of Dentistry’s first Student and Staff Conference

Monday 4 February 2013


On Friday 11 January, the whole of the Dental Institute, both staff and students, took to the Royal College of Physicians for their first ever Student and Staff Conference. With over 500 people present, this was the first opportunity the school has ever had to come together in such a way. Becky Isles, Dental Society President, gave us the lowdown on how the day went.

The aims of the day were to focus on school engagement and participation, whilst also providing a chance to deliver information about various aspects which the school has recently been addressing, including the new hospital and new curriculum. Feedback was an underlying theme of the day; finding out what we are good at and where we can improve.

The day began with an introduction from Professor Farida Fortune, Dean of the Dental Institute, and Professor Elizabeth Davenport, one of the lead organisers of the day. We then split into five 'breakout sessions'. The first part of the morning was run by the Dental Society Committee, and involved 'getting to know you' activities; we played connections which sparked off many conversations between students of all years and staff.  We then did an activity involving graduate attributes; focusing on which we possess and which we aim to gain within the next academic year and how. All in all a fun start to the day!

Each of the breakout groups had a particular topic, which was to be discussed and feedback gained. These included: the new hospital build, the new curriculum, academic advice and graduate attributes, feedback and evaluation and quality assurance. The second part of the morning consisted of information about the particular topic delivered and then feedback to key questions gained. The feedback was presented to the whole school in the afternoon.

The morning was rounded up with the tradition of the inauguration ceremony of the Dental Student and Staff Presidents, and the handing over of the medallions. This, the 101st inauguration, provided Dr Tim Friel, Staff President, and myself the opportunity to give a little on our backgrounds, whilst suitably embarrassing ourselves with some entertaining baby photos! The aims of the Dental Society were explained and the committee introduced.

After a lovely lunch and whole school photograph, we gathered in the lecture theatres, where the Principal, Professor Simon Gaskell, greeted us with a short talk. We then went on to hear some staff and students present information on each of the topics discussed in the morning sessions and the feedback gained. Some past students returned to give examples of how the school has helped them. There was also an enjoyable presentation on the dental team from the school who worked at the Olympics. They day was rounded off with an inspiring talk by Dame Margaret Seward, an alumnus of The London and former President of the General Dental Council (GDC).

Overall, the day was a huge success. Many of the issues raised were found to already be in the process of undergoing improvement. However, what was most encouraging was that many of the topics discussed showed us that, as a school, we are doing extremely well in providing an excellent standard of teaching and implementing ways to maintain and further improve upon this.

The day was a brilliant way of introducing information to the school’s community, especially regarding aspects which are going on 'behind the scenes' that we students might not be aware of. Furthermore, one of the aims of this day was to have fun, to mix with new people and to integrate staff and students. This was definitely achieved, and I can confidently say the conference has been one of the most successful events the dental school has held in the past few years. Feedback from students and staff has been fantastic and very encouraging, and numerous people have asked if a whole school conference will become an annual event!

I would like to conclude by thanking all those involved in the organisation of the day, and Professor Fortune, whom without the conference would not have happened. All the hard work, time and effort that was put into the organisation is hugely appreciated, and I think, as a whole the school can be extremely proud of what we have achieved.

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