Outdated Curriculum Need to Change – Prof Saima

Prof Saima Razaq Khan Sadozai is an outstanding academician who has achieved a lot in a short span of time. She is currently a professor and Head, Department of Operative Dentistry, Lahore Medical and Dental College since 2016. She is also the CEO, VISAGE Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry and Member, Board of Directors, SR Group, Convener, Faculty of Operative Dentistry, CPSP, Examiner FCPS/MCPS at CPSP, Examiner/Paper setter/Assessor for Final Professional Examination, for Bachelors of Dental Surgery in UHS since 2008.

She is also a member curriculum committee for FCPS and MCPS in Operative Dentistry at CPSP, chairperson CDE Committee, LMDC, and is supervising/ running fellowship course. She is also co-supervising M-Phil course: M-Phil in Dental Anatomy by UHS since 2010.

Prior to her present occupation, she was the Clinical Accounts Executive, Align Technology (Santa Clara CA, USA) Pakistan office. She was responsible for coordinating INVISALIGN® Treatment plans and Designing of Orthodontic Appliances, between US based orthodontists and Align Technology Pakistan.

She did her BDS from de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore followed by FCPS (Operative Dentistry) College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan. She was Awarded Fellowship, Women Leaders in Health. University of Southern Queensland, Australia and did a Certification in Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry, British Academy of Restorative Dentistry.

She has a number of publications to her name and is currently involved in multiple on-going research projects/ clinical trials.

She was recently interviewed by Dental News and the excerpts of the interview are as under:-

  • Enlighten us about your background. What led you to this profession?

Dr Saima; I am the eldest daughter and aspired to be a cardiologist and despite getting into the MBBS program in Army Medical College, my mother persuaded me to pursue dentistry since she thought I would be able to treat my own malocclusion, which others could not fix.

  • Did you find dentistry interesting?

Dr Saima ;  The first year at de’Montmorency College was the worst year of my life because I was new to the system and the campus was not in a good shape. It was demoralizing to see that dentists’ children got preference.

DN Are you the first in your family to step into the medical profession.

Dr Saima; Yes, it was tough in the beginning but it started getting better with time and once I managed to make friends things started to improve.

DN: Did the journey become any better?

Dr Saima; Yes! My orthodontic treatment started in 3rd year and therefore took a liking to orthodontics.

  • How did you envision your dental career after graduation?

Dr Saima; As soon as I graduated, I joined a multinational company ‘INVISALIGN’ and I really wanted to do something in orthodontics. It was a great experience because I got the opportunity to work with American orthodontists. Unfortunately, after 9/11, they had to shut down and then I had to reassess my options. Later on, a professor of mine, Dr. Yousaf, allowed me to work in the operative department of LMDC

When I took a liking to operative dentistry, I decided to appear for FCPS part 1 which I managed to clear and thereafter became Dr. Yousaf’s trainee.

My inspiration to join the operative dentistry was none other than Dr. Yousaf and it was always a pleasure seeing him work with extreme skill and watching him do amalgam carvings and crown wax-ups.

  • What are your thoughts on postgrad studies? Do you believe they are essential to securing a professional future in dentistry?

Dr Saima ; Well, it depends on how you envision your future. Dentists can either serve in a private practice or opt for academics. FCPS is a good option for those planning to pursue academics however; those who wish to practice should go abroad and do clinical programs since FCPS may not be helpful for a clinician. I think people should weigh their options according to what they want.

  • Do we lay more emphasis on theory than hands on experience?

Dr Saima ; As far as undergraduate curriculum is concerned, students are studying amalgam restorations even though they are obsolete. Cosmetic dentistry is on the rise but the current syllabus does not cover it. Most of the postgraduate education is theory based and does not incorporate training programs and we do not assess the practical skills of the candidates.

  • How do you compare administration and teaching and is it easy to maintain a balance between the two?

Dr Saima; I attempted in vain to create a balance. Academics and hospital management should be separate however since it is not; it is always a challenge to manage both and strike a balance.

  • Do you think academicians need training in management and administration?

Dr Saima; Not only academicians but also doctors in general, because the medical training does not have any management skills component. Someone in the recent past recommended that there should be an administrative staff course for graduates so that when they go into management they know how to manage stuff.
Furthermore, practice management is another area that is lacking in the curriculum and we are producing specialists who like to do everything.

  • Since you have an experience of managing your family business and exposure to an international environment. How do you feel that has benefitted you in your career and profession?

Dr Saima; I have been working with my family business since 2006 and even though business is very different from academics, it has helped me a lot in handling the administrative department. There is very little commonality between your own business and a job.

  • Females generally dominate the medical and dental profession. How is your experience in the dental profession as a woman, and what is your view for women in dentistry?

Dr Saima; Well, being a woman was never a problem for me. However, I think there is a lack of acceptability and integration. Males dominate private practice but 80-85% of the population in dental schools comprises females, which means that this will change very soon and I think the future definitely belongs to women in dentistry.

  • Do you feel that after graduating women do not pursue professional and academic activities?

Dr Saima ; That holds true for some women but some of the males also switch professions.

  • Is that not creating problems for the potential male candidates?

Dr Saima; You know that has to do with the general setup of the society. In our society, women lack the independence to choose their career. Therefore, it depends on your family background. I have had the freedom to choose my career. As time is passing, we are getting more students who are more independent and who have joined the dental school because they want to be a practicing dentist. Mindsets are evolving with time.

  • What are your views on four or five years of BDS and what do you think the about the upgradation of the undergraduate curriculum?

Dr Saima ; I think the whole curriculum is outdated and needs to change, it is not at par with anyone in the world. Secondly, 5 years is definitely better than 4 years especially for operative, because in operative we have two specialty subjects, which are Endodontics; and Crown and Bridge that need to be part of 5th year. It is better to divide the whole course over 5 years with focus on hands-on practice in the final year. I did a research on fresh graduates and we asked them if they felt ready to enter into private practice, the day they left college. Around 70% – 80% of the students from all colleges of Lahore said that they were not confident to take up private practice. The reason was that they knew the subject but did not get enough time to practice leading to lack of skill.

  • Are you in favor of including house job in the BDS curriculum in the form of foundation year?

Dr Saima ; It can be in any form. The question is that do we have a defined objective of the house job? If we call the 5th year of BDS the foundation year and they are supposed to do a certain number of clinical cases, then I am all for it. The curriculum lacks integration between the medical and dental part because the basic sciences are taught in the first two years and dental subjects in the last 2 years. Many unnecessary topics that are of no use to dentists are part of the curriculum.

  • Do you think the modular system of teaching can be helpful in that regard?

Dr Saima ; Definitely, the modular system has produced good results in some parts of the world. However, it requires many resources. In view of the available resources if we can refine the curriculum as a first step that would be better. Modular system can obviously be the next step.

  • Being a busy woman, do you think you are able to do justice to your family?

Dr Saima ; My family might be able to answer this better. However, I believe I give adequate time to my family. I am always switching roles but since it has been a while, I think I have been able to strike a balance now.

  • How should women maintain a work-life balance?

Dr Saima ; This question always makes me wonder why only women are expected to strike a balance between work and family. It is tougher for women as they are mostly dependent on men.
My advice to them would be to just be themselves, have self-respect and keeping in view the values of the society and family, they should try to do their best but never think they are in any form lesser than men. With that in mind, they can achieve everything.

  • Any future plans for the institution and your practice?

Dr Saima ; For the institution, I would like that we produce better dentists. On a national level, I think there should be a change in the curriculum. As far as I am concerned, I might switch from academics to a full time clinician. I hope that dentistry in Pakistan comes at par with the rest of the world because we are currently lagging in terms of the use of technology.

  • Has dentistry made enough progress in Pakistan?

Dr Saima ; Yes, we have made a lot of progress, especially because of the private institutions, they have brought in many resources and have given many job opportunities and have trained many people. If it were only for the government institutions, we would not have had so many specialized dentists in the country. Increase in the number of private institutes has made a positive impact and the fact that dentists are going abroad for further courses is bringing about improvement. Introduction of courses by private practices is also a good initiative.

  • Don’t you think these courses should be part of the under graduate degree instead of being conducted separately?

Dr Saima ; I cannot comment on that. As I stated earlier, there are many limitations when working with an institution. We lack the authority to train people the way we want to. It might be a better option to train a smaller group of people in your own academy or institute. If the teaching and curriculum were good, we would not have needed that many courses.

  • Are you in favor of making it mandatory for dentists to fulfill a certain number of CDE hours every year for their registrations to be valid?

Dr Saima ; I believe that if people want to improve themselves it is up to them, you cannot impose it on anybody. I have come across people sleeping and/or using their phone during workshops in the Gulf where it is necessary to complete credit hours and that defeats the purpose. The motivation to improve comes from within. I do not think making it mandatory will make a big difference; it will only increase paper work for the dentists.

  • Would you like to give any suggestions to future dentists.

I would advise them to make up their mind from the very first day at university otherwise; they will lose time and money. Once the goal is clear, everything falls into place. Moreover, try to look for a mentor even though mentorship is a rare phenomenon in this country, you can take guidance from someone who inspires you.

May 24, 2018

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