The Need for Continuing Education
Thinking Schools, Learning Nation: this is what
Singapore is striving for. It also means that learning is
a continual process and that we do not stop learning or slow
down our learning when we graduate with our first degree.
In clinical dentistry, it is vital that we keep ourselves
up-to-date with the latest technologies, materials and knowledge
that are being developed to help dentists provide the best
treatment for our patients. A failure to keep current would
be a failure in our professional responsibilities. In addition,
dentistry, like medicine, is moving into evidence-based practice.
How can we achieve our goal of being a responsible practitioner
unless we actively attend continuing education courses?
Patients that we treat today are markedly different from
those we saw twenty years ago. As information on oral health
and ways of managing dental problems is easily available on
the Internet, dental professionals must be well informed to
help patients understand what they obtain from the Net. In
a true scenario, a female patient went to see a dentist requesting
for treatment using dental implants. The dentist explained
the procedures involved and the advantages and limitations
of the treatment. At the end of the discussion, the patient
declared: Doctor, I agree to have you treat me because
you have a clear explanation of treatment using dental implants.
Actually, my husband surfed the Net and read about it. Since
you know about this treatment modality, I am confident you
will do a good job. Imagine what would have been the
result if the dentist had lacked the latest information regarding
the subject. Losing the patient is one thing. Giving the patient
a poor opinion of our profession would be something else.
Continuing Education at GSDS
As part of NUS, the Graduate School of Dental Studies (GSDS)
must play a leading role in continuing education not just
locally, but also beyond our shores. Together with other organisations
like the National Dental Centre, Singapore Dental Association,
College of General Dental Practitioners, Academy of Medicine
and the Specialist Societies, GSDS seeks to ensure that there
are an adequate number of courses to meet an ever-increasing
demand for continuing education programmes that dentists and
supporting personnel can attend.
Each year at GSDS, a number of courses are conducted ranging
from lectures to, especially, hands-on programmes. Some of
these hands-on courses are laboratory based (e.g. root canal
therapy, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry), while others
are clinically based (e.g. periodontics). For 2002, courses
planned include Cosmetic Dentistry, Dental Implants, Endodontics,
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Pediatric Dentistry and
Periodontics. GSDS is fortunate to have a group of committed
full and part-time staff (from Singapore and overseas) to
develop and conduct its various programmes.
To improve the quality of its programmes (particularly laboratory-based
courses), the Faculty of Dentistry recently had an extensive
overhaul of its facilities. The pre-clinical teaching laboratory
was renovated at a cost of over $2,000,000 to include amenities
such as patient simulators, close circuit cameras and a video
system connected to high-resolution computer screens that
can also provide multimedia services. Through generous donations
from alumni and well wishers during the 70th anniversary celebrations
of the Dental Faculty, a Clinical Teaching Unit was set up,
containing a state-of-the-art operating microscope, with intra-oral
video cameras and TV monitors, to enhance teaching and learning
in hands-on clinical courses. The new extension at Level 4
of the Dental Faculty, which was officially opened on 1 December
2001 by the President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shih
Choon Fong, includes a 150-seat auditorium for lecture programmes.
The auditorium, pre-clinical laboratory and Clinical Teaching
Unit are linked audio-visually to enable clinical procedures
performed at the Clinic to be transmitted to the auditorium
In the future, GSDS intends to provide continuing education
beyond courses conducted on-site at the Dental Facultys
premises. By taking advantage of NUS rich store of IT
resources, GSDS plans to develop computer-based interactive
programmes for self study and distance learning as well as
to utilise video-conferencing to conduct courses led by foreign
experts without them having to come to Singapore.
For it to work, the idea of continuing education should
be introduced before our students have graduated. We should
cultivate a learning culture within our undergraduates so
that it will be part of their continual learning process when
they graduate. Consequently, we should encourage them to attend
continuing education courses conducted by any relevant organisation
even during their undergraduate days.