Dr. Nasir Saleem is a graduate of the Nishtar Medical and Dental College Multan, and then completed his Fellowship in Operative Dentistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan. Dr Nasir’s quest for knowledge made him do an MSc. in Restorative Dentistry from the University of Manchester. Dr Nasir has been a key speaker at various National and International forums; and he is widely respected for his clinical expertise and sound understanding of the subject.
During the course of the interview, Dr Nasir Saleem explains how the Clinical Masters’ changed the course of his professional career.
Q. What made you do a masters’ from the UK?
I think professional development has to be a continuous process. Having completed my fellowship with College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, the only thing that made me get into this Masters’ program was a drive to improve my professional skills further. I am of the view that the thirst for improvement should always be kept alive, it is this that makes a person evolve into a stronger professional.
Q. What difference did you see in the teaching system of Pakistan and the UK?
It’s easy to criticize our own post graduate teaching system and I would admit there are a lot of areas that require improvement. However, one needs to realize that it is the same system that has produced one of the most talented clinicians and academicians that we have in our country today. But that should distract our focus away from the fact that dental post graduate programs in our country are still in the evolutionary phase and we being academicians need to put in more thought and efforts for the betterment of the profession.
The biggest difference in the teaching systems of UK and Pakistan seems to be the professionalism and ethics shown by these foreign institutions and individuals towards their students. The curriculum and timelines are well defined and adhered to. The tutors assigned to the students respond efficiently and within a time frame. You are made aware of the level of proficiency expected of you at various stages of your program at the very beginning; and then you are helped towards achieving those goals throughout the course. In short, their education system is organized in a manner that all components of that system function to help the students achieve their ultimate goal.
Q. Why did you apply in an online MSc. Program?
It is not an online program in true sense because it is a modular system in which part of the curriculum is covered on line. While the major practical portion has to be performed clinically by the student and there are mandatory periodic residentials, which are at the university campus. So it is a combination of all three modules. Having a settled job, established practice, a post graduate qualification and a family with two lovely daughters, the only thing that seemed feasible at that point of my career was to join this program. It was a constant juggle of family life, professional commitments and workload of the Masters’ program for two years. The program is very comprehensive, and only a person who has been through this can fully appreciate the depth. I think that program has helped me understand the subject further, and I can definitely feel more equipped with the modern skills of practice.
Q. What is the difference between a conventional and an online program?
An on campus program affords not only a more personal interaction with the teaching faculty but also a direct utilization of on campus facilities. Patient care under direct supervision of the university faculty is also a very strong positive for on campus clinical programs. And for these reasons on campus programs tend to be on the expensive side.
However, many online programs have credit hours equivalent to an on campus program. Also, with the technological advancements the learning platforms are becoming very interactive. In order to bridge the deficit further, this particular program incorporated multiple comprehensive residential /contact sessions for students to have a more intimate interaction with their course leads and tutors on university premises. The clinical aspects of this program are equipped with a prompt feedback from the course leads and faculty at various stages of the patient care before final submission of clinical cases for assessment. The dissertation component also incorporates a very efficient working relationship between the student and assigned tutor at every step before final submission.
In short the any such program may work really well for practitioners and academicians who cannot enroll for an on campus program due to their busy schedules but have not lost their zest for professional development.
Q. Why do you think is it important for professionals from Pakistan to get foreign education?
The biggest factor is the quality of education that these foreign institutes offer. Also, the opportunity to share and learn from experiences of fellow students and tutors with varied and multinational backgrounds helps broaden your own horizon. And I am not talking about professional development only, breaking these cultural barriers helps you grow on a personal note as well.
Q. What would be the best time for a student to plan a Masters’ Program and how should they plan the finances?
I think the best time is immediately after graduation (with two years clinical experience which is a requirement by most institutions) provided they have gotten the financial aspect figured out. If one cannot afford an on campus program financially or otherwise, part time/online programs may offer a viable alternative. The internal awards by universities in UK nowadays are nearly non-existent. A possible alternate can be applying for the Fulbright, HEC or British council scholarships. I also feel that an investment going into education is always worth it; as this will take you to a stature where you can perform better, and hence earn better.
Q. What would your advice be to the youngsters who wish to be the next restorative master?
Quest for knowledge has no boundaries. Going for any postgraduate program is not only a professional requirement but it demands a passion for your profession too. ALLHUMDULILLAH, doing masters from University of Manchester has dazzled my clinical skills; however the Fellow ship of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan would always be my pride.
All youngsters must focus their minds honestly towards professional development. Application of clinical knowledge requires careful judgment, case selection and artistic skills. All these come with meticulous practice and enthusiastic learning of the contemporary information.
I sincerely hope that many young dentists would stride towards any postgraduate program, to fill up the dearth of specialist practitioners in our country.