By Dr Sarah Ghafoor (Conference Secretary)
LAHORE: Dentistry in Pakistan is progressing to newer levels. National and international exchange of knowledge and ideas play a pivotal role in shaping our vision and goals for the future, which seems to lack in Pakistan. Dentistry has long been neglected as a profession, and the fact that no Pakistani research journal is indexed in the ISI web of science is a grave question mark for the majority of us in academia and research.
The University of Health Sciences is the largest public-sector medical university in Pakistan. More than 20 undergraduate dental colleges are affiliated with the institution. The reforms made by the University inculcate long-lasting effects in educational and non-educational paradigms owing to its affiliations. A similar situation prevails in postgraduate clinical and basic dental sciences disciplines where the UHS introduces expert specialist training both at its main campus as well as the postgraduate training centers in Punjab that are affiliated with it. The University of Health Sciences, Lahore, has diversified its role from not only being an exam-centered organization but to a research and innovation centered organization.
The UHS realized that globalizing dentistry in Pakistan is the need of the hour and to achieve that it has to be linked to the international dental community. The last ten years in Pakistan has witnessed a revolutionary shift in dentistry in terms of the quality of dental education, learning environments being offered to the dental graduates of Pakistan, along with state of the art facilities and infrastructure being provided at all undergraduate dental colleges and postgraduate institutes. While we are aware of what is currently taking place at a national level, there is an urgent need to showcase our strengths in dentistry to the outside world as well and make collaborative networks with leading dental schools and universities of the world. The UHS believed that it is also important for us as a dental community to promote and exchange views, networks, and ideas for inter-collegiate, inter-university, inter-provincial, and international linkages among the dental community of Pakistan
In order to achieve this vision and to promote a soft image of dentistry of Pakistan to the international community, the task of materializing the vision of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Javed Akram, was placed on my shoulders like a huge responsibility. Prof Dr Yasmin Rashid was requested to be the patron of the conference, and on 19th June 2019, the launch ceremony of the conference was held.
The first step to consider was to decide on a theme for the conference that will show the vision behind the concept of the UHS. After considerable deliberation, I came up with the theme “Collaborate. Innovate. Cure” for the conference. We started by linking ourselves to many centres of academic excellence, where I started connecting with top professionals from their fields to invite them to the dental conference. Our hard work and dedication paid off, and many top professionals from across the globe accepted our invites. This lead to the organization of one of the largest conferences in South-Asia to date.
This conference is not just about listening to experiences shared by speakers through their presentations; it is a whole new concept of promoting a field of health care delivery to the next level. For the first time in Pakistan, a public-sector university was organizing a conference of this level. We also met with the President of Pakistan on 29August 2019 and informed him about the updates on various activities to be held at the conference.
For this national event of dentistry for Pakistan, our organizing committee is spread all over Pakistan, and we have contacted every dental college in the country to be our partner for this event and have received a tremendous response in return. The UHS Flagship conference is hosting 19 pre-workshops, in collaboration with the dental colleges of Pakistan, which encompass all thematic areas of dentistry. I can proudly say that dentistry in Pakistan and probably no dental conference has never witnessed this extraordinary composure. This was achieved by collaborating with all the dental colleges of Pakistan with whose help we achieved our aim of spreading knowledge to every corner of the country.
The UHS, through the vision of the Vice-Chancellor, has also taken the initiative of setting up a forensic odontology registry at the Jinnah campus of the University at Kala Shah Kaku. This registry will pave the way for the easy identification of any criminal or disaster victims through floods, air crash injuries, or fire accidents.
The conference has many high-impact foreign dignitaries coming to attend the opening ceremony, and we are organizing stall exhibitions of many educational institutes in the conference exhibition area. For the first time in Pakistan, dental colleges and universities have set up stalls to showcase themselves in a dental conference. These include the University of Lahore, Superior University, Lahore Medical and Dental College, Multan Medical and Dental College, Bakhtawar Amin Medical and Dental College Multan, Rashid Latif Medical and Dental College, Faryal Dental College, Aziz Fatima Dental College, Akhtar Saeed Medical and Dental College, Sharif Dental College and Islamabad Medical and Dental College. We are also having a large exhibition of commercial dental suppliers through the Dental Trade and Manufacturer Association of Pakistan. Our corporate partners include Sensodyne, Colgate, Platinum, and Pfizer pharmaceuticals. Our press partners include Dental News Pakistan and Dental Health.
During the conference, along with the main scientific sessions, we have some very special sessions. After “SuXess Factors in Dentistry” on the inaugural day 1, the conference on its second day is hosting a special book launch by Prof Khawaja Sadiq Hussain, ex-principal Kind Edward Medical College, which is an exclusive autobiography as a leading academician and teacher of the top medical college of the country. This will be followed by a special session on “Oro-systemic connection” that will have a presentation by leading clinicians and researchers on how oral health is linked with diagnosis, prognosis, and mediation of various systemic conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even salivary biomarkers for brain health.
A special session will be conducted by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) to overcome quackery in which the regulatory affairs regarding medical and dental devices will be discussed. The conference will also be signing an MoU with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and Science Bridge, both of which are leading educational and research organizations of the world connecting many prestigious institutions.
The speakers of the conference from the UK, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Sri Lanka, China, turkey and Brunei Darussalam are visiting Pakistan for the first time. This is probably the first time in Pakistan that this many foreign dental participants are attending a conference, including those coming in from Turkey and the representatives of the Palestinian Dental Association.
Along with oral and poster competition for the students, we have introduced the concept of art in dentistry with a dental art competition in which a huge number of students are participating. Table clinics displays will also be showcased on the main conference days. The judge for the dental art competition is Mian Ijaz ul Hassan, a renowned artist, and achiever in his field.
The conference’s closing ceremony will be graced by the Prof Kahlid Masud Gondal, VC, KEMU, as the guest of honor and Dr Zafar Mirza as the Chief Guest of the ceremony. The conference will end with prize distributions.
The UHS hopes that educational institutes host sustainable dental conferences in the future. Next year, we will host a national dental conference at the University of Health Sciences in Lahore.
The registration to date lies at approximately 2300 participants, and I am sure that this number will increase to more during the days of the conference. We expect that this conference will bring a new change in dentistry, for those who proudly practice it as well as those who will now proudly own it. Together, with our partner educational institutes, we will take dentistry in Pakistan to an international level and look for the cure of common dental problems affecting our population through innovation and collaboration. I welcome all registered participants to enjoy learning and interaction and enjoy the historic city of Lahore. We welcome all attending delegates to Pakistan.