On 17 September 2007 Peninsula Dental School opened its doors to the first cohort of 63 students. We all knew how important the day was. It wasn’t just the first day of the academic year and a new career for the students, it was the first day of the first new dental school in the UK for over 40 years. We had spent the previous year planning and building; constructing our team as well as the curriculum and teaching facilities.
Feeling like pioneers as those on the Mayflower who set sail not far from our Dental School, we nervously awaited the students’ arrival. The School was officially launched by Alison Seabeck MP after the first students enrolled.
The School offers a four year Bachelor of Dental Surgery Programme. The entry requirement is an honours degree in a biomedically-related subject or a qualification in a health care profession subject with relevant experience of working as a health care professional. The School is based in the far South West with the students spending time in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro, in the community, hospitals and dental practices.
With the patient at the heart of the programme, the students encountered their first dental patients within the first week of the programme. With the support of the local dental community, the students were able to spend time in dental practices.
The enquiry based learning (EBL) programme is centred around the human life cycle. The students begun by looking at a 6 month old baby and will move on to look at teenage, middle age and old age. Students will work in teams of eight and develop a sense of responsibility for their peers. Good communication and, when appropriate, leadership skills are important in EBL sessions and will be developed further in the clinic.
During the first two terms, the students will spend time a considerable amount of time practising their new dental skills in the brand new Phantom Head Laboratory. The Curriculum is supported further by sessions in the Life Science Resource Centre and the IT Suite. Plenaries supporting the EBL sessions are held throughout the week and are offered by Peninsula Dental School staff and external experts within their field.
Teeth are only one part of the patient and the patient lives within their socioeconomic setting. This is where a sound understanding of the biomedical basis of oral disease and holistic care comes in. The Devonport Regeneration Company has been a supporter of the School and the Devonport area is in need of improved dental care. The School’s flagship building is currently being built in this area and will provide dental care to the community.
The students will begin their work in this area in February when they undertake three Special Study Units. The students will visit nursery, primary and secondary schools and residential homes for the elderly, where they will provide oral healthcare advice.
In March, the students will progress to spending a day a week in a dental clinic in Exeter. This will be another momentous step for the students and the School, for all our steps are made hand-in-hand with our students. Having spent a year as a ‘virtual’ dental school we all wondered what our first cohort would be like. Would they be as enthusiastic as we had hoped? Would they share the educational ethos of the School? We feel very lucky, our first cohort sparkles with enthusiasm and inquisitiveness, and aspire to be great dentists. We have a four year journey ahead to graduation and it would be difficult to find a better group to share this journey with. Of course, this isn’t where the journey ends. For the newly qualified dentist and his/her patients, this will be just the beginning.
We now have a full term under our belts and systems feel less new and more routine. DentSoc held its first social event at Christmas and this marked another milestone for us all.
The programme of continuous formative and summative assessment is well underway. During Year 1 there are 14 procedures in which the student must demonstrate competency. S/he decides when they are ready to be assessed on their level of competency and book an assessment slot.
Students are continually assessed on their performance and contribution within the EBL sessions. Reflection on this and other assessments form part of their Regulation Portfolio Appraisal (RPA). Approximately every six weeks, each student meets with their Academic Tutor. Prior to and during this session the student reflects on their performance and plans remediation for any areas requiring improvement. This enables any difficulties to be identified at an early stage and corrected promptly. Once students begin their clinical work in March, this will also form part of the RPA.
In February the students sat their first Progress Test. This online test will be taken by all dental students twice a year and is set at the level expected of a newly qualified dentist. A similar process is used within medicine but the approach is completely innovative within dentistry. It has kept the local dental community well occupied as they have assisted with much of the question writing. During the first two years, the results of this test will be formative. The feedback it will provide to students and the School will be of enormous benefit.
At the end of the year, students will sit two MCQ tests. Questions within these papers will be associated with dental sciences and life sciences. Then we will undertake our first assessment panels and boards.
We have engaged the students in a fair amount of evaluation, both formal and informal. Feedback has been highly positive, with a few areas requiring some minor modification. With the students telling us how happy they felt and the DentSoc party, we all felt content to take a well deserved break over Christmas!
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: email@example.com