- When the University of Technology’s (UTech) College of Oral Health Sciences graduates its first set of dental surgeons in November, among them will be a proud Caithlyn Williams.
- Miss Williams says that the five-year Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) programme, offered at the college located on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston, was challenging, yet rewarding.
- Chief Dental Officer for Jamaica and Interim Dean of the College, Dr. Irving McKenzie, tells JIS News that this cohort will be “a proud set of dental surgeons who are going to grace the Jamaican landscape.”
When the University of Technology’s (UTech) College of Oral Health Sciences graduates its first set of dental surgeons in November, among them will be a proud Caithlyn Williams.
She tells JIS News that she is pleased and honoured to be among the pioneering group of 23 students, who have received world class training locally.
Miss Williams says that the five-year Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) programme, offered at the college located on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston, was challenging, yet rewarding.
She notes that the training, while preparing first class dental professionals, also places emphasis on public service.
“Having that opportunity to give back to offer services to persons…is more than just rewarding, it gives you this sense of accomplishment. Being able to have this emphasis on public health…you are baptised or integrated into this (principle) that you need to give back, it’s not just about making money at the end of the day,” she says.
Miss Williams tells JIS News that the programme has been an eye-opener for her as she has learnt that “dentistry is a whole lot more than just teeth.”
“It’s more than just pulling teeth…you have to learn about the whole body, you have to understand how the body works, how everything interacts, you have to learn the same medications as the medical doctor,” she points out.
Miss Williams tells JIS News that as part of the first cohort of dentists, she is happy to be among the “trendsetters,” who will be “paving the way forward for the ones behind us.”
Chief Dental Officer for Jamaica and Interim Dean of the College, Dr. Irving McKenzie, tells JIS News that this cohort will be “a proud set of dental surgeons who are going to grace the Jamaican landscape.”
“Jamaica has already experienced what they are capable of providing through outreach and through the services that are provided here at the school and services that are provided in Government health facilities across the length and breadth of Jamaica,” he says.
As part of their training, students participate in voluntary outreach programmes initiated by the college in clinics and health centres in the public health sector, as well as community health fairs and other outreach events, where dental services are offered free of cost to the public.
Students also gain hands-on experience at a dental clinic, housed at the college, which offers a range of dental services for Jamaicans.
Dr. McKenzie notes that all graduates will embark on the Government vocational training programme through internship and will be placed at health centres and health facilities across Jamaica.
The college, which is Jamaica’s first dental training school, also offers degrees in Bachelor Science in Dental Hygiene; Bachelor of Science in Dental Nursing/Therapy; Bachelor of Science in Dental Laboratory Technology. Students can also earn a Diploma in Dental Assisting.
Since inception, the school has been producing highly trained dental professionals. Dr. McKenzie notes that from as early as 1950, the Government had recognised that there was need for more dentists in the country.
This, he said, was due to the fact that “the epidemiological profile of Jamaica from the perspective of oral health was appalling – rampant caries (tooth decay), children were losing their teeth very early, children were missing school because of pain and dental decay and abscesses, etcetera.”
Dr. McKenzie points out that the administration’s response was a scholarship scheme to train dentists overseas. This continued until 1969 when it was realised that the scholarship scheme was not enough to satisfy the local demand for professionals.
It was then that the Dental Auxiliary Scheme was adopted, which replicated the model used by countries such as New Zealand, Australia and in Great Britain.
This scheme saw the formation of the Dental Auxiliary School in 1970, and the programme being transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education. At the time, the school trained dental auxiliary personnel, who were primarily dental nurses and dental assistants, who provided care for the nation’s children through Government health centres.
In May 2002, a revised programme for the Dental Auxiliary School was introduced, which involved the training of dental surgeons, dental hygienists and dental technicians.
“The oral health needs of the people of Jamaica are great, and as such, all of this was borne in mind, as this new college was formed. The Cabinet approved the revised programme of the Dental Auxiliary School that led to the development of the College of Oral Health Sciences at the University of Technology,” Dr. McKenzie informs.
The college boasts four schools – the School of Dentistry; the Dental Auxiliary School; the School of Postgraduate Dentistry; and the School of Radiology Therapy.
Also under the umbrella of the college, is a centre of excellence, the Caribbean Institute for Strategic Planning and Research in Oral Health. The college also has a state-of-the-art dental prosthetic laboratory where full and partial dentures are manufactured; a Gross Anatomy Laboratory; and a Radiology Suite.
Dr. McKenzie notes that the college has been working to enhance the integrity of its various programmes and has recently formed many international linkages geared at “promoting and establishing our credibility as an institution of repute.”
He boasts that the college had a 96 per cent pass rate in the recent clinical competency examination of the United States-based Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA).
The examination, he says, was administered “by the best of the best in the United States on Jamaicans (and) …we came out and we ranked like any other great American school.”
He notes as well that students also wrote the American Board of Dental Examiners (ADEX) examination, which is also administered by the CDCA.
Dr. McKenzie tells JIS News that the school is committed to excellence, and as such, accreditation is an integral part of that process.
“When people think about accreditation, they think about the ability of the graduates upon graduation, their ability to get jobs, to be recognised; (and) the ability of the graduates to be competent to meet the standards that are required and we have used varying approaches,” he points out.
He notes that through the CDCA examination, for example, the college has demonstrated that competence.
In addition, he points out that other aspects of accreditation have been prepared, and that the institution has gained the approval of the Dental Council of Jamaica, which is a statutory body constituted under the Dental Act of 1972, tasked with maintaining self-regulation of the dental profession.
Its role is to promote and protect the public interest by ensuring that oral health practitioners are safe and competent to practise.
“We have a lot of affiliate-ship with many well-known US universities and colleges in dentistry, and our quality assurance process has been way advanced. We have completed the self-study documentation and others for the dental hygiene programmes, and we have the assisting and dental technician programme, which is to be completed very soon. Then we will be embarking on the self-study documentation for the dentistry programme,” Dr. McKenzie notes.
The College Head also shares that the school has a consultant on board, as well as consultancies working within the Commission Dental Competency Assessment (CODA) in North America. He says the school is also collaborating with persons in Canada.
“We are saying that we can and we have proven that we produce dentists of world class standards,” he says.
Dr. McKenzie is confident, based on the school’s impressive track record, that it has established itself as “a bona fide and reputable dental institution.”
“We have persons coming here from all over the world to be trained in implants, to be trained in endodontics and we’ll also be looking forward to training the world from a public health point of view. We intend to see how we can get persons from elsewhere to come and learn public health dentistry and community dentistry from a different perspective – Jamaica style,” he says.