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Dental community need their separate ‘PDC’: Prof. Dr Shahjahan Katpar

Professor Dr Shahjahan Katpar is Dean and Chairman Board Faculty of Dentistry at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS).

After completing BDS from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Pakistan in 1991, Prof. Dr Katpar passed both Fellowship and Membership Examinations (FCPS/ MCPS) in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) from the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) in the year 2000 and 2001 respectively. 

He formally started his career as Assistant Prof. OMFS and Head of Oral Biology Department in 2002 at Hamdard University. In 2010, Prof. Dr Katpar worked as Vice Principal Dentistry, Associate Professor and Head of OMFS department at Bahria University Medical & Dental College (BUMDC) Karachi. Later, he served as Associate Dean, Post-Graduate Programs Dentistry and Masters of Dental Surgery (MDS) Program Director at Dow University of Health Sciences from 2007-2009. Prof Dr Shahjahan then moved back to his alumni varsity and joined as Professor Maxillofacial Surgery and in-charge of Dental Skill Lab in 2014.

Prof. Dr Shahjahan is currently serving as Head of OMFS Speciality, Dow Dental College (DDC) at Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi and Shaheed Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto Institute of Trauma, DUHS from Nov 2017 till date. 

Among many feathers in his cap, Prof. Dr Shahjahan Katpar has developed a new OMFS Surgical Procedure, to treat Fracture Mandible Infant Cases. The published document is available on Google as ‘Prof. Katpar’s Innovative Splint Technique.’

Dental News recently spoke to him about his contributions to the dental profession and representing Pakistan on the International level.

by DN Staffer

Dental News: This pandemic has affected dentistry a lot especially the education system. How was your response to such an unprecedented situation? 

Speaker: Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. Everyone, including us, and the education system has also been affected negatively. Post-graduate and under-graduate training has been suffered due to lockdown. DUHS has three dental colleges, so the task to maintain and regulate education was our priority and it was also our biggest challenge as well. We tried our best by providing online teaching, assignments, and lectures to continue the process of education and not compromise it in any form. DUHS took special measures to ensure that the gap developed by online teaching methods can be overcome by uploaded some lectures ahead of time. It was impossible to escape from the impact of pandemic, but we tried our best and continue to do so.

Dental News: You have an amazing career as a dental academician to sustain your passion for spreading knowledge. How has been your journey so far? 

Speaker: It has been unique, beautiful, challenging, thrilling, and crazy. You see, life is all about ups and downs. I may appear calm and composed on the surface, but you don’t know what went behind my back. This is life! Every day is a new challenge. I graduated in 1991 from Liaquat Medical College, Jamshoro. A house job followed that, and I came back to Karachi. Here I did my first membership and then fellowships from the CPSP. I was very fortunate by the grace of Allah. I am one of the pioneers in the fellowship of the CPSP in dentistry. I happen to be the first dental graduate from my parent institute to do a fellowship in any dentistry speciality.

Growth in number dental colleges is exponential, and their focus lies in quantity rather than quality

So, hard work pays off, and Allah made things very easy for me. I started my teaching career at Hamdard University as an Assistant Professor in 2002 and moved to DUHS in 2006. I joined Bahria University in 2010 or 2009 and then LUMHS in 2017. I am now back at DUHS and Insha’Allah plan to retire from here whenever the time is right in this whole process. I did my training in Pakistan’s first FCPS training centre in any dental speciality which was established by Prof. Dr Mervyn Moin Hosein, my mentor and supervisor. I am trying to follow in his footsteps at the same time.

Dental News: There’s a difference in the degree’s completion time in various places. It takes four years in Pakistan while it is five years in the USA. There were talks to change it here in the country. What is your opinion on this? 

Speaker: You are talking about my mission, vision, passion and the main goal for this country, Alhamdulilah. The five-year program that began at DUHS in 2012 had to be discontinued within three months when they realized that certain things were not on point and hence the process was halted. Unfortunately, my senior colleagues who succeeded didn’t catch up with the process and hence it was delayed and eventually it was stopped. God was kind to me when I was at LUMHS, Jamshoro things started to look better again, all thanks to Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Dr Naushad Sheikh. He allowed us to conduct Pakistan’s first and pioneer in dental education conference. We were able to identify the setbacks in dental education of Pakistan and concluded that the solution lies in turning it into a five-year graduate program. We conducted seminars and invited all the honourable speakers from Pakistan. They suggested that we need to have seven new dental specialities taught as separate teaching and examination subjects. This was something which does not exist in Pakistan. All of these specialities are trained internationally, and they have a different exam. I think this was where the future lies. We need to follow the international guidelines and introduce behavioural sciences, forensic odontology and research methodology, which are equally important subjects.

SARS-CoV-2 is not only present in the oropharynx but also in the salivary glands; thus, practicing dental professionals are at very high risk

However, let me tell you that the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore did an excellent job. They have started teaching behavioural sciences in dentistry and got one step ahead. I still think that to attain international standards; dentistry has to move forward. We need new dental specialities and faculty as well to improve the profession. This will allow fresh dental graduates to be more qualified and trained than us. That is my aim.

Dental News: What do you think is the crucial difference between education here and abroad? 

Speaker: They are more focused in terms of research and clinical skills and have structured training programs. Their teaching is directed as they are not very commercial oriented. They will produce dental graduates based on society’s need, whereas we are in a commercial rat race. Growth in dental colleges is exponential, and the focus lies in quantity rather than quality. Another significant difference is that they have standardised criteria all set, which we lack. I also feel that only those passionate about dentistry are enrolled abroad. 

Dental News: Everyone in the medical society took part in helping the masses during the current situation of the pandemic, but the dental community was side-lined. What is your view on this? 

Speaker: Unfortunately, political corruption has a major role. Some of the stakeholders didn’t allow us to come forward and contribute. This is where the gap lies. We were neglected by the government, as well. Let me add something important here, the SARS-CoV-2 is not only present in the oropharynx but also in the salivary glands. Thus, practicing dental professionals are at very high risk. But this message was not promoted the way it should be. Regardless, we take a lot of precautions. The clinical training has been affected, and there has been a financial loss to all the clinicians. COVID-19 has shaken the whole world; we are no exception. Still, we all are trying to serve the community as much as possible, and things are slowly improving. Social media has educated us all, but at the same time, it has created confusion. 

Dental News: How would you recommend dentists to cope with this pandemic? 

Speaker: This is a challenge. COVID-19 is here for a very long time. I guess precautions are the only remedy. The vaccination has raised other questions. It has to go through multiple stages while the trial goes on. It has its own set of complications, and some conspiracy theories have surfaced too. It may not be the only solution. At the same time, it is necessary to prevent COVID through precaution.

Everyone has to be aware about the importance of how to follow COVID Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); the mindset has to be changed

Its pity that even educated people are not wearing masks. Everyone has to be aware of the importance of how to follow COVID Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The mindset has to be changed. In future, hopefully, COVID-19 might be treated just like the flu, but currently, people are dying and affected by it. Social education is essential to change this mindset and also the only way.

Dental News: Do you find online classes beneficial for dental students, and has it affected the continuity of education? 

Speaker: I guess the students suffered, and so did the clinical training. When you’re teaching in person, the level of understanding is different as compared to teaching online. Students were not happy, but we as teachers could not help it. We tried a lot, and it was not that bad of an experience as faculty contributed their best. I believe it depends on the teaching skills of the individual because it can vary. Online teaching was a challenge for the faculty because this method of teaching has its own requirements. Some teachers are gifted with excellent communication skills, so they may guide others to teach online. Yes, teaching was affected, but clinical training was affected more, as OPDs were closed. Patient inflow was limited, and everyone was scared to take responsibility if something went wrong. We being a public sector organization varsity have to be very careful.

Online teaching was a challenge for the faculty because this method of teaching have its own requirements

However, I would suggest a solution to improve online teaching. The CPSP has a fellowship training program, where the viva has a component in which a long case is assigned. You are given a patient, and within a given amount of time, you have to take their history, conduct a clinical examination and devise a treatment plan. Questions from two examiners follow this. Every dental speciality should assign a case to a group of students, on the guidelines of the CPSP, while maintaining social distancing. This may include procedures like simple tooth extraction, fracture reduction, local anaesthesia administration, Apicoectomy, root canal, scaling and polishing or managing orthodontic cases. This will help students a lot. This is something I plan to follow with my colleagues and principles. This is how teaching should be done because it will help students with history taking, diagnosing, interacting with patients and other soft skills. What do you think? 

Dental News: So, what are your take on this Pakistan Medical Council (PMC) issue and doctors’ registration because many dentists were facing this challenge? 

Speaker: PMC needs to reconsider its policies. The biggest dilemma is where does the letter of ‘D’ for dentistry exist in the PMC? It’s because of some of our senior colleagues who did not possess good leadership qualities to stand on their feet. Firstly, they think dentists alone cannot do anything alone. Secondly, the medical profession has been ruling, so now it is time to change. The 13-member PMC has only two representatives from the dental community. Do you think they can represent the dental community enough among medical graduates?

The biggest dilemma is where does letter of ‘D’ for dentistry exist in the PMC?

 Its high time we have a separate dental council, like other countries, such as India. We are still lagging behind.

Dental News: With so many people doing FCPS and MDS, the limited number of seats available for residency is becoming a problem for post-graduates. What do you recommend in such situations for the post-graduates? 

Speaker: More training centres are required, but they should be fully developed. People at higher posts are not mature enough, and they lack intellectual and leadership skills. I guess dentistry is evolving, and more opportunities will sprout with more training centres. The medical profession always stands out when compared with our work. This is because of us and our medical and national stakeholders. During the ’80s, the dental profession lacked academic leadership. The number of post-graduates was a few to none. They were not allowed to come up, and dentistry suffered because of that.  

Dental News: A final message for your young dental graduates? 

Speaker: Yes, they must have big dreams and follow them with humanity and dedication. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart and devotion. Try not to go for short cuts as it will give you temporary benefits, but you will suffer in the long run. Believe in merit as hard work always pays off and leave the result on Almighty. It would be best if you never gave up. These challenges, if done with dedication, make us better humans. Explore subjects that don’t exist in Pakistan. Medical and dental education is a new area, and each dental college is going to need this particular department to form the backbone of academic growth of dental colleges. This is how I see things. 

Try not to go for short cuts as it will give you temporary benefits, but you will suffer in the long run. Believe in merit as hard work always pays off and leave the result on Almighty

February 13, 2021

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