Inspired to teach

Sarah Pollington will bring both experience and new ways of thinking to dental education

07 April, 2020 / indepth
 Will Peakin  

Sarah Pollington will bring both experience and new ways of thinking to dental education

Director of Dental Education, Dr Sarah Pollington

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has appointed Dr Sarah Pollington as its new Director of Dental Education. Dr Pollington graduated from the University of Sheffield in 1992. After working in general dental practice, she began part-time teaching at the university in 1995 – initially in oral surgery and then restorative dentistry. She became a full-time clinical lecturer in restorative dentistry in 2001.

In 2008, Dr Pollington completed her PhD in novel dental ceramics and completed specialist training in 2013. She is on the GDC specialist list in restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics and endodontics.

We are moving away from traditional lectures and embracing new technologies and resources

Dr Sarah Pollington

Currently, Dr Pollington is a senior clinical teacher and honorary consultant in restorative dentistry at Sheffield University. She is the undergraduate lead for learning and teaching in periodontology, lead for a number of prosthodontic clinical skills courses and director of student affairs. Her research areas involve pedagogical and clinical trial work.

Dr Pollington has been actively engaged with the college since 2007, initially as an examiner for MFDS Part 1 and 2, and more recently as a member of the Dental Education and Training and Professional Development Board. Scottish Dental magazine asked her about the professional journey she had undertaken so far and her ambitions for the role.

What took you into the profession?

From a young age, I have always wanted to work in healthcare and during secondary school, I undertook work experience in a dental practice in my hometown of Grimsby. The principal dentist, Peter Carrotte, and his associates were very inspiring and supportive, and I realised this was to be my vocation. In fact, Peter went into teaching himself – initially at the University of Sheffield and later at the University of Glasgow.

Why move into teaching?

Initially, I started as a full-time associate in Grimsby – for three years – but I soon realised I wanted to learn more, develop my skills further, and pass on my knowledge and experience through education. In 1995, an opportunity arose for me at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital through teaching a session on oral surgery with undergraduate students learning extractions and surgical procedures, which started my teaching career.

However, my heart has always been in restorative dentistry and, in 1997, I began supervising students on the undergraduate restorative clinics initially on a part-time basis until I became a full-time clinical lecturer in restorative dentistry in 2001.

I was inspired by a number of tutors during my undergraduate and postgraduate training and want to give that experience back to junior colleagues. I am very passionate about teaching and endeavour to provide excellent teaching experiences through imparting my own knowledge and encouraging lifelong learning. 

What was the thinking behind the choice of subject for your PhD?

I wanted to undertake a novel, innovative project and, as one of my clinical interests is indirect restorations, I decided to pursue the development of a novel glass-ceramic that was strong, could be machined by CAD/CAM technology as well as retain excellent aesthetics associated with glass-ceramics.

It also provided me with the opportunity to work in different departments, such as mechanical engineering, and learn new skills and expertise in terms of dental material testing. For some of this laboratory testing, I worked collaboratively with the University of Siena. 

How would you say teaching has changed over the years?

Learning and teaching have changed in many respects over the years. We are moving away from the more traditional lectures and demonstrations and are embracing the new technologies and resources available to us, such as eLearning, webinars and long-distance/remote courses. There have also been changes in teaching methodology, such as flipped learning, problem-based learning, and active learning approaches.

By the same token, how has learning changed?

Through these technologies, the students are able to actively engage and take on responsibility for their own learning. For example, with flipped learning, where the students are provided with the learning recourses before the teaching session, this allows them to view the material on multiple occasions until they are comfortable with the new learning objectives. It also allows for further preparation and planning by the students prior to the session in terms of additional reading and highlight any area that needs further explanation. 

And the make-up and ambitions of student cohorts?

Traditionally, most dental students have gone into general dental practice, but I feel there is a move more towards specialising in a specific subject area for either private practice or the hospital environment. Dentistry does open up many different opportunities for the young graduate, including general practice, hospital, university, community, volunteer work and the armed forces.

Describe the experience of your involvement with Glasgow

I am highly committed to the Royal College of Surgeons of Glasgow and have been actively engaged with the college since 2007, initially as an examiner for MFDS Part 1 and 2, then MFDS Part 1 Multiple Short Answer Lead examiner from 2011 to 2013, deputy convenor MFDS Part 2 (North West England) from 2015 to 2019 and a member of the Dental Education and Training and Professional Development Board since 2017.

I am very privileged to have worked alongside so many supportive colleagues who all want to deliver the best learning and teaching. Many wonderful opportunities have arisen for me through my engagement with college including examinations at both national and international level over the years.

Why apply for the post?

Becoming Director of the Education and Training Board will allow to further pursue my dedication to the college and impart my knowledge and experience in further development and promotion of Dental Education. As a senior clinical teacher and honorary consultant in restorative dentistry at the University of Sheffield, I have more than 20 years of experience in learning and teaching, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and I am on the GDC specialist list in restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics and endodontics. 

What do you hope to bring to the role?

I want to bring my skills and experience in learning, teaching and leadership to the college and I welcome the opportunity to extend my commitment to the college through this prestigious role in leading and developing new innovative training and education and also to further promote the college. My approach to learning and teaching is innovative and I have introduced a variety of new ideas and concepts throughout my career, demonstrating my commitment to the development and delivery of education.

Another area we are hoping to develop is a new international revision course for MFDS Part 2 and educational activities for international membership. This will also open up further opportunities for the college to provide education nationally and internationally in various formats such as an annual conference, distance learning, webinars, streaming of events, awards and advance the college profile. In addition, there will be an opportunity for the college to develop new dental examinations.

What would you say have been some of the advances and achievements of the College in dental training?

A variety of different courses and symposia have been developed over the years by the college which have now become established as popular ongoing events and also the use of new technologies to deliver such events including Dental Webinars, eLearning courses, provision of various symposia, cadaveric workshops mandatory and CPD courses have enabled the college to reach a wider audience. The college is also developing further its social network platforms to promote dental events. 

What challenges remain?

Everybody is leading very busy lives and our workload is ever increasing. Funding and study leave to attend courses remains challenging. By the use of new modern technology, most courses can be live streamed, and webinars can be watched at a suitable time in relation to work schedule. Time to plan and develop new learning resources also needs to be considered.

Any initiatives or enhancements planned?

The college plans to further extend its provision of dental education, both nationally and internationally. Development of cadaveric workshops within the College and CASC is planned. Further courses, in particular hands-on courses, for all members of the dental team is being explored as well as future conferences and educational events. Inclusion of different audiences such as undergraduate students and DCPs is another area that will be expanded.

What are the key wider issues around the workforce, education, post-grad education, skills and professionalism?

We are facing an uncertain future with wider issues around sustainability, funding, workforce shortages and the longer-term regarding the NHS, the impact Brexit, and the implications of the Coronavirus crisis.

Professionalism is another growing area, and education centred on human factors is needed.

Tags: Dental education / RCPSG / Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow / Sarah Pollington

Categories: Magazine

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