A real Wray of sunshine

14 April, 2011 / Infocus

Having broken the “glass ceiling” at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) by becoming the first female Vice-President in the institution’s 400-year history, Dr Alyson Wray is also keen to modernise the appeal of the College by making it more inclusive for dental professionals.

Dr Wray is the new Vice-President (Dental) and Dean of the Dental Faculty of the College and now sits at the “big table” on the College Council and Executive Board, making strategic decisions to develop professional post-graduate standards for doctors, surgeons and dentists.

Dr Wray explained: “As Vice-President, I have responsibility for developing post-graduate training for dentists, but I am keen to make the College more inclusive for the whole dental team.

“We are looking at promoting Associate Memberships for general practice dentists and designing events that will be of interest to dental care professionals.”

Although Dr Wray is relaxed in her new surroundings at the College’s headquarters in St Vincent Street, she is aware that there has been a perception of a “members’ club” ambience of the place, with its wood panelled walls, gleaming chandeliers and austere portraits of past presidents.

This can be a little intimidating for some – herself included. She readily admits, as a graduate dentist, to running through the college doors and straight out again when she first entered the building to find the results of her exams that were posted on the reception message board.

“I can appreciate how the College’s traditional ambience could turn people off the institution and decide that it is not for them, but we have to strike a balance between the College’s heritage and its importance in today’s world.

“The College’s heritage has given it its longevity and credibility, but we also need to balance this with a more dynamic and forward looking image that is all about promoting and supporting professional development and commitment.”

Treating children is Dr Wray’s passion – an interest she developed in her vocational training in 1983 as a dentist in a community clinic in Pollok.

She explained: “I was also involved in school inspections and was shocked at the level of dental disease in the children.

“When I found out that the level of disease had stayed the same over the past 20 years, despite a fall in the number of children on the school role over the same time, I felt something had to be done.”

Dr Wray spoke to Professor Ken Stephen, an expert in preventative dentistry and water fluoridation and one of her former lecturers at the Glasgow Dental School, and they helped develop a dental health campaign with the local health board. This resulted in two years’ work in the East End of Glasgow and provided her with the motivation to pursue a PhD, working in association with Unilever conducting clinical trials into toothpaste formulations to prevent tooth decay.

After her PhD, she spent two years developing her clinical expertise at the Glasgow Dental Hospital before pursuing a specialist training path to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. She later went on to become Vice Dean and Director of the Dental Membership Services Board of the College before taking up her current role in October 2010.

In 1993 an exciting opportunity came Dr Wray’s way, which enticed her to the US with brand giant Procter & Gamble to research site-specific antibiotic applications for periodontal disease in Cincinnati.

She said: “This was a great job, as we were conducting clinical trials across the whole of the US.

“When I took up the post I originally planned to stay, but I found I was not able to do any clinical work in the States because I could not get a licence to practice. I missed this aspect of dentistry, particularly working with children, so I eventually decided to return to Scotland.”

Back at the Glasgow Dental School, she lectured for a few years and qualified as Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry working at the Glasgow Dental Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Gartnavel General Hospital.

She currently spends three days a week working for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and two days on postgraduate work for NHS Education for Scotland.

Career File: Alyson Wray, PhD, BDS, FDS (Paed) RCPS

Dr Alyson Wray is a Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry in Glasgow Dental Hospital and is also the Hospital Dental Services Postgraduate Tutor for the West of Scotland.

She graduated from Glasgow University and completed her Vocational Training in the Community Dental Services (CDS).

After four years in the CDS she came back to hospital dentistry and completed her FDS in 1993.

She spent a year in Cincinnati working on clinical trials for Procter & Gamble before returning to Glasgow as a Lecturer in Paediatric Dentistry.

She completed her PhD in 1995, and was awarded her Exit Fellowship in Paediatric Dentistry in 1997.

She has been a Consultant since 1999, chaired the Intercollegiate Fellowship Board in Paediatric Dentistry, and is currently the Dean of the Dental Faculty and Vice President (Dental) of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow.

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