Internationally accredited dental programs and faculty exchange programs are an essential need for the future of dental academia in Pakistan. These were the opinions given by Dr. Syed Sheeraz Hussain, currently Assistant Professor and Head of Department Orthodontics at Karachi Medical and Dental College, Karachi.
Q: Tell us something about your achievements?
My name is Dr. Syed Sheeraz Hussain. I was in the first batch of BDS studies at Karachi Medical Dental College and the first ever person to get a post graduate degree from the same institute. I was enrolled in my FCPS Orthodontics training in 2002, and completed in 2009. In 2003, I cleared my MCPS. I am currently a visiting consultant at Liaquat National Hospital (Orthodontics Department), HoD of Orthodontics Department at KMDC and running a private dental practice. I am also among the examiners of foreign students in Pakistan and an appointed inspector from Karachi University for different Medical and Dental Colleges in Karachi. I have 12 nationally published papers as first author.
Q: Tell us about your contribution to the CPSP training workshops and its aims and objectives?
The CPSP workshop series is a collaboration of WHO with DME, whereby dental surgeons are given trainings in various aspects of dental clinic and facility management. This is a series of four workshops encompassing areas of dental surgery, patient communication, dental research and use of computer and statistical software programs such as SPSS. I am responsible for conducting communication workshops where I train the fine art of communication with patients and how to manage difficult questions and situations.
The elements of communication workshop include model of communication barriers, role playing, normal OPD counseling session training, critical evaluation and discussion, brainstorming, terrorism related injuries and their discussions with patients, and dealing with threats. Alongside, verbal and nonverbal presentation skills, methods in post graduate training examination attempts, stress management and tips and tricks of passing post graduate programs are given.
Q: What are your views about regularization of quacks and unqualified professionals in dentistry?
There is a dire need to create a Pakistan Dental Act with legalized framework encompassing all aspects of dental care provision, training, licensure and protocols. We cannot deny the fact that most of the rural and poor populations in the far off areas still rely on these quacks for their dental treatments. This is primarily the dental surgeons’ fault for they are more concentrated in the urban areas and not interested in carrying practice to the rural areas. We must remember that safety concerns and lack of proper facilities remain the biggest hurdles to motivation for dental surgeons to attempt such actions. Through creation of registers which legalize the practicing stature of these personnel, we can keep check on different malpractices. Alongside, we can provide these quacks or B-class dental professionals with training and accreditation programs, educate them about infection control and prevention procedures and provide them benchmarks to elevate the general status of dental care in the country.
Q: What are some of the local challenges faced in case of dental care in Pakistan?
From a professional point of view, public awareness remains poor in dentistry. Most dental surgeons are focusing on clinical specialties of dentistry, leaving more social dental sciences such as community dentistry out of focus. This has led to incomplete data base formation about dental disease in Pakistan and thereby implementation of correct strategy.
These programs and efforts will help address other growing concerns in the dental profession as well such as spread of Hepatitis. While WHO has been actively participating in much health related drives such as Polio campaigns, it needs to give some attention and help to dental professionals in creating awareness programs and campaigns in dentistry. Having said that, it does not absolve us dentists, particularly the established and influential dentists to play their role and take up leadership positions in this matter.
The creation of programs, both academic and practical in community dentistry may help shift the inequality balance in dental care availability in different regions of Pakistan.
Q: What are the challenges you face at your point of career?
I feel that there is absence of true faculty and training development programs in the academic side of dentistry. Most of the lecturers and professors who are clinical practitioners become lecturers. This is a very good trend, however, the academic research and teaching criteria and the level of expertise in teaching such highly technical courses cannot be expected without at least a brief knowledge of the academic systems. Therefore, local and international research funding to increase academic oriented research mindset is very much needed.
The teaching faculties must be given the proper resources to become good teachers and mentors to their students. This can be done through provision of scholarships, creation of international training and learning missions, and various teacher training programs in collaboration with world renowned dental institutes. Without proper awareness and understanding of our shortcomings in the dental academia, we cannot bring our dental programs at par with international standards.
Q: Similar concerns are raised when the stature of FCPS in international academic circles is considered. Where the problem and what is is your recommendation?
Yes the FCPS acceptance rate internationally remains abysmal. CPSP has done a good job in promoting its program which has led to FCPS acceptance in the Middle Eastern area. However, degree equivalence remains an issue. Internationally, FCPS is still considered a diploma regardless of the PhD level of work and vigor involved in the process.
One solution to the problem regarding international recognition, not only for Pakistani dental surgeons but also dentists from other countries is to consider dental equivalence globally once a person has attained 8 to 10 years of specialized clinical expertise in his particular field of dentistry. This will allow a professional exchange of experienced persons with ease in different areas of the world, thereby disseminating dental knowledge with ease.
Q: What about the dental curriculum at the bachelor’s level. Internationally the absence of any recognition whatsoever is extremely frustrating for graduating students?
That is true and keeping this in mind, there are efforts underway to create a revised dental curriculum on a five year based dental program. This will help include many subjects of dentistry previously not included in the curriculum or taught as a subspecialty of another subject. For example, forensic dentistry, jurisprudence and implantology should be taught as separate subjects. Another international discrepancy which needs attention is the replacement of operative versus restorative dentistry nomenclature.
Q: You are also involved in bringing business models into dentistry. Tell us about this experience?
Dental surgeons are so busy with their post graduate and clinical trainings that they hardly find the time to create business models for their practices. In this regard, different health management aspects can help improve outcomes and returns to the practice. I have been involved with some professionals in creating marketing and branding strategies for my practice. I am also working with consultants creating business process reengineering methodologies for dental practice.