Rising to the top
After witnessing implant surgery as a young undergraduate, Dr Philip Friel was convinced this was a treatment that he wanted to explore further. He said:
“I happened to see an implant being placed in one of the oral surgery sessions at the dental hospital, which was quite rare at that time. I thought back
then that, in terms of replacing teeth, this had to be the way ahead.”
However, little did he know that this early exposure would set him on the path to becoming the youngest president in the 25-year history of the Association
of Dental Implantology (ADI) at 36 years old. Philip was brought up in Newlands on the south side of Glasgow and graduated with degrees in anatomy (1998)
and dental surgery (2001) from Glasgow University. After graduating, he spent two years working in a maxillo-facial unit in Inverness before moving into
general practice, firstly in an NHS practice in Ayrshire and then a mixed private/NHS clinic in Glasgow.
In 2007, Philip bought his own practice in Hyndland and, following a major refurbishment, re-opened as Philip Friel Advanced Dentistry in 2010. Alongside
general dentistry, the clinic also takes referrals for cosmetic and restorative dentistry, including implants. Philip also runs an implant referral clinic
in New Town, Edinburgh.
Philip placed his first implant in Ayrshire in 2003 under the guidance of a mentor, a role he has since assumed himself. He said: “It was back in the day
where there wasn’t so much in terms of structured learning for those wishing to get involved in implant dentistry, it was predominantly driven by the
manufacturers, which is probably not ideal.”
However, this reliance on the manufacturers to provide education and training was changing and organisations such as the ADI have since bridged the gap,
providing forums for practitioners to share experience and embark on independent training. Philip said: “My involvement with the ADI really came about
because of that the manufacturer influence on training]. It allowed the informal interaction with more experienced colleagues locally and nationally. It
also allowed training, education and an opportunity to build up experience to take back to practice.”
In 2005 Philip joined the ADI as a member and not long afterwards the opportunity arose to succeed Stephen Jacobs as Scottish representative on the
committee. Stephen was moving on to president-elect, before holding the position as president from 2009 to 2011. His new role entailed Philip organising
the Scottish study clubs, which welcome national and international speakers, and he has since gone on to hold the positions of secretary and treasurer on
the national ADI committee.
As treasurer, Philip managed to improve many of the financial aspects of the association, including making it more financially efficient. He said: “The ADI
is a charity, so there is a big responsibility to manage the funds as best we possibly can and there were certain improvements that I found we could make
to ensure that the association was as financially efficient as it could be.
“In turn, this improved the availability of funds for the main goal of the association, which is the advancement of implant education. As a result of that
work and similar projects like that, the ADI is able to maintain what is considered a very good value-for money membership and a membership rate that has
held for the last five of six years without any increase.”
In light of these achievements, a fellow committee member then suggested to him that he should put himself forward for the role of president-elect. He
said: “I discussed it with few others and thought it over. I’d been involved for quite a while, I’d seen how things progress and how the committee worked.
What I had done in the secretary and treasurer roles had made a difference, a difference that we are now seeing the benefit of some years later, so I
decided to go for it.”
He put his name forward and was duly elected to assume the presidency after Professor Cemal Ucer’s term ended earlier this year, becoming the youngest
president in the history of the association. He said: “It is a fantastic opportunity, I think I have 10 or maybe more years on the next youngest president.
“But I have taken on the role and it is my intention, like anything I do, to give it 110 per cent minimum. It is an opportunity for me to make a lasting
difference in terms of implant education in the UK. Both in terms of the ADI as an association but also in terms of the potential political involvement of
that association, with regards to the future of implant education in the UK and beyond.”
In terms of his plans for the role, he was very clear that modernisation and efficiency are high on his list. He said: “I want to improve the
organisational efficiency of the association in general, in terms of protocols, strategy, governance of the office infrastructure and what we really do as
“As part of that efficiency I want to modernise what we do as an association. I have already started with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
installation, which basically allows us to operate and integrate efficiently with our members, and allows the membership to efficiently interact with the
He also revealed that maintaining, and improving where possible, the various member benefits was of vital importance. Things such as the patient and
dentist information literature that the ADI has produced for patients interested in implants – to answer any queries they may have – and for dentists or
dental students to find out more about how they can start out on their own implant journey.
Philip said: “I’m a GDP and I always will be. And, as GDPs form the bulk of the ADI membership, a big part of my role is to make sure I do what I can to
make implant education and patient education as easy as possible for them.”
Another key aspect of his role is the organisation of the biennial congress, which in 2015 will be held at the SECC in Glasgow. Planning is already well
under way with Stephen Jacobs taking on the role of scientific chairman.
He said: “I was delighted that Stephen Jacobs accepted that role and he has been great already, really superb in organising what I think will be quite a
groundbreaking conference in many ways. Not only in terms of bringing it to Scotland for only the second time, but the first time in Glasgow and at a venue
in the SECC which will be fresh from the refurbishment for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“We’re planning something really different, which will be the icing on the cake in terms of the completion of my role as president of the association. I’m
really looking forward to it. We always attract great numbers but often there is a great deal of travelling involved for the Scottish members, so hopefully
they will appreciate the fact that it is a lot closer to home and it is less time out of their practices. They will still be able to see world-class names
on their doorsteps.”
And, while he is very much the face of the association for the next two years, he insists it really is a team effort. He said: “It is not just about me, it
is really about the team. With the ADI, we have superb office staff down in London who really carry out the bulk of the work. We have myself as president
but we have a really enthusiastic and productive committee, who are second to none and I am really delighted to have that in the presidency.
“It is the same with the clinic here. If it was just one person trying to do it all, it simply wouldn’t work. Since opening here we have gone from a team
of three to nearly 20 now. There has been no turnover of staff at all, which is just fantastic. Having that support when I do have commitments in London
and overseas etc, is really essential for what we want to achieve.”
And it is Philip’s enthusiasm and drive, allied to the great team behind him, that he feels will ensure he enjoys a successful two-year term of office. He
said: “I have a massive enthusiasm for the role. I really love the association – what it does at the moment and what it will be able to do in the future.
But, as I have already said, it is really not about me, it is about the support team down there, the committed committee that we have and what we can
achieve as a collective rather than individuals. And that is where the real strength of the association lies.
“The involvement by committee members is voluntary, and with anyone who is associated with the ADI – be they past presidents, former committee members,
even current members – there seems to be a real willingness to give time, commitment and input where it is required for the good of the association, which
is really lovely. It is lovely to be a part of an association like that.” ® For any dentist interested in starting out in implant dentistry, the ADI
committee has produced ‘A Dentist’s Guide to Implantology’ which is free to download at http://www.adi.org.uk