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Brain Boxed in

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Social media has become part of our everyday lives and dental surgeons and students are no exception to this trend. Dental surgeons have been actively using social media websites such as Facebook to study and promote dentistry.  Social media has become a key platform for marketing attempts of dental clinics and courses as well. The core purpose claimed is to bring the dental community together and create network platforms for learning and growth. But are the dental students actually doing it? A brief review of the various dental groups made on Facebook website show a dismal picture of what can only be called a boxed in mentality of dental students. A research was carried out on the different Facebook pages of dental colleges of the country. The list was long with each college having at least two Facebook and group pages. Most of these pages were created by students themselves. It is observed that dental students are mostly interested in social discussions similar to ones they carry out on their own Facebook pages. There is a lack of discussions of dental interest such as the techniques being mastered at third or fourth year bachelor’s level. There is an absolute lack of any research oriented thinking, and no student discussions were found who were discussing a research paper or thesis. It is a well known academic practice to share ideas and concepts, critique them and discuss different approaches to various medical problems. The same theme was missing here. There were no discussions of new technology or methods used in dental practices around the world. Students were not even comparing notes they took during class. There were no discussions on viva questions, theory based questions, dental techniques, good clinical practices or even salary ranges and prices of dental procedures. Compare this with what was found on these pages. The only most commonly found aspect was the unending list of conferences taking place in various parts of Pakistan and abroad. Other advertisements included implant workshops, orthodontic courses, or product advertisements.  Surgical, periodontal, histology or histopathology, dental medicine prosthetics studies, courses or cases were not discussed. This is indeed troubling, saddening and infuriating if not pathetic. What was found was promotion of events and already established dental celebrities launching new chapters or courses. These celebrities did not put in any knowledge of the skills they learnt into the groups they were part of. One dental professional even has a fan page following.  You can see lots of glitzy pictures of the events, pretty dental surgeons (for most are females) and even some workshop links, but no discussions on the contents of these and learning outcomes achieved or feedback shared. There was no discussion on dental syllabi, subjects and future options and careers which students want to pursue. Any other aspects of healthcare such as healthcare policy, new technological advancements, business models, patient care, sharing of dental books or material, dental act and preventive practices are perhaps not even a concept present in these budding minds. So what are these dental colleges producing? Boxed in minds. Lack of inquisitiveness, lack of research oriented academic thought process. Lack of motivation to change their own state as professionals let alone the dental or healthcare system. Lack of, absolute lack of any interest in what they are learning, what they should be learning, or any attempt therein except to register in the next upcoming big conference. Is this what they are? A revenue earning pool until they wise up and try to figure something out to learn creative way of earning? Some enthusiastic students are out there looking for ways to academically develop themselves, but they are not found in these groups. It is understandable, given the absolute absence of any productive information that can be taken out from these groups. Who is to blame? The students. They being professionals should know better and take themselves seriously enough to encourage creative thinking within themselves. This is something they are responsible for themselves, and not the culture, teachers, parents or society. The need to improve one’s self is the basic element of Maslow’s hierarchy of need. If that need is solely based on creating a dental career with lots of money and publicity, these students and professionals are about to face some of the worst set-backs in their professional lives. The faculty and colleges? Yes. They are churning thousands of dental students into the system with no planning or future programs to study, work, groom or develop themselves. There is no student counseling, complete absence of good mentors and leaders in dentistry. These so called leaders (self proclaimed) may have mastered their domains, but they fail to develop the future potentials, which is a true mark of leadership. The bachelor’s dental program teaches books that are over ten years old, with no changes in the curriculum, no international accreditation, no international visiting faculties or scholarship opportunities. These students, like baby turtles are thrown in the sea to swim or drown, with no concern or interest of the consultants, dental professors, teachers or leaders.  Many dental surgeons have been lost from the field in the process, and this will continue. The monopoly grows the profits role in, the names get printed and published, and the influence grows. The students? Yes again they are to blame. The students should bring themselves about to create at least an inquisitive mind. They must get out of their pond thinking of MDS, FCPS or MPhils and look at the real issues of dentistry and dental healthcare. This is a tall order and like any other Pakistani mentality, the student may well turn around and ask ‘if no one else is doing it, why should I waste my efforts?’.  True. But who is to suffer? Without any structure, the entire dental platform will collapse. Unfortunately, the students will be the first to get crushed in the process. But like the boxed in thought process, most of these will not know until it happens.

September 5, 2013

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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