Interviews

The culture of critical thinking is lacking in Pakistan: Dr Ambrina Qureshi

Dr Ambrina is the Chairperson of Community & Preventive Dentistry at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS). She is also the member of the Syndicate of DUHS.

By Dr Muattar Hanif

Prof. Dr. Ambrina Qureshi graduated from Fatima Jinnah Dental College (FJDC), Karachi. Following her graduation, she joined Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences as a Lecturer in Community Dentistry. Dr Ambrina then went on to pursue Master’s in Philosophy (MPhil) Community Dentistry from Shaikh Zayed Federal Postgraduate Medical Institute, Lahore. To update her thirst for knowledge, Dr Ambrina is currently pursuing PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) Community Dentistry. Currently she is working on a research project which is a three arm diabetes-periodontitis trial funded by the National Research Programs for University (NRPU) Higher Education Commission.

Recently she sat down with Dental News Pakistan to talk about her journey

Dental News: Tell us a little about your background, especially what made you chose dentistry as your profession?

Dr Ambrina: I did not choose dentistry initially. My passion was always towards philosophy and arts and subjects like that. But it’s a familial trend where our ladies in the family are doctors and the gentlemen are the lawyers. So initially I opted Arts. I was already doing my Bachelors in Arts at St. Joseph College and I had chosen subjects like Philosophy, European History and English literature. It took one year for my mother to really convince me and bring [me] back to the track where the family was going on so. And that is how I came into the dentistry.

Dental News: How do you think the raging oral cancer problem can be addressed?

Dr Ambrina: I always say that all these things like awareness, prevention, promotion and education… these all should be integrated in your [dental] curriculum. And it is our undergraduate students who during their training period can actually take care of such things and can spread the awareness. They can help us address these issues by finding out the updated statistics and finding out the ways how to promote prevention of such debilitating conditions.

Dental News: How can we increase awareness regarding gutka or other tobacco related products?

Dr Ambrina: My answer is same. The awareness or the address of the issues… these all should be made integral part of the undergraduate curriculum. The undergraduate students during their training, should learn how to identify the oral conditions, even the general conditions, which are linked to the oral or poor conditions and they should address it. They should be finding out ways how to prevent it. They should be finding out ways how to educate the masses about the poor effects of the risk factors which are associated with these conditions.

Dental News: What steps can be taken to address the issues of people in rural areas?

Dr Ambrina: You see, technology is growing fast. And I think we should understand that the use of technology has entered even in the rural areas, like every person has a mobile phone these days. So why not start introducing tele- dentistry. You know, start spreading awareness to the rural populations through tele-dentistry or even like integrating this tele-dentistry into your curriculum. Again, I think these are the things which are the need of the hour and this is how we can address these issues and this is how we can solve these issues, to some extent.

Dental News: How can we motivate dental professionals to give back to their community?

Dr Ambrina: I think it’s very difficult to motivate dental professionals, especially the new graduates. Everyone has spent money on their education and they would not like to go to the rural areas. This is a very frank answer that I am giving! The only solution which I can think of, at this point is again, integration. Get your students to identify these problems during their training period. They can help us identify these problems and spread awareness. You cannot ask or you cannot motivate the new graduates to go back to the rural communities or in their own communities… because everyone wants to go up. If a person has started from Karachi, maybe, they would like to go to U.S. or UK rather than going back to Karachi or even if the person is coming from a rural area, he would not like to go [back] there. Because he has, again spent money on his or her education. So let these things, which we know that are the current problems, into your curriculum. Get your curriculums be reformed. So that while we are educating our dentists, they are also supposed to solve the problems of our community. This should go side by side.

Dental News: How can public sectors help in oral health issues?

Dr Ambrina: See, public health issues today are not the [first] priority, to be very sorry. The kind of standards or the regulations we have, whether it’s the Public Sector College or a Private Sector Institute…All of them just want to follow those ‘particular’ regulatory standards. When all are just going to focus on meeting those standards, which have been imposed on them, then why would someone care about the public? [Who will care] regarding, what is happening in the public or like what the public is suffering from? I think the Public Sector would have played a very important role in prevention, in public health promotion, in awareness, in education…in such basic things. But somehow the Public Sector has also started competing with those standards. Now people are more focused on, you know, forensic odontology and implantology, such big difficult words are these! and you know on specialty based dentistry. We all have forgotten what actual basic need of our country was.

The basic need of our country was prevention. And it still is. We should all try to focus on prevention rather than you know… We should give it time to an extent where it can be addressed. I think it’s time that we all should understand what our community needs rather than what are our standards demands.

Dental News: PMDC (Pakistan Medical and Dental Council) dissolution has caused a stir among dental community. Your comments on that?

Dr Ambrina: I don’t see a major stir among dental community, to be very honest. I think the stir was mostly around the people who were direct sufferers of this dissolution the employees of the PMDC. What actually Dental Community really wanted? They were more concerned about their registrations. They were more concerned about their faculty registrations, their experience certificates and so on. So I think if it is still in continuity then the dental community is not much worried. The most worriers are the people who were actually working for the PMDC.

Dental News: Students have to appear in NLE (National License Exam) to become eligible in house job. Your take on that?

Dr Ambrina: First of all NLE has not started as yet. I suppose this will be implemented in coming year, somewhere. Let’s just wait for it to come. I think if the government has decided such a thing [that is because] all other countries are also doing it. So I don’t think there is any harm in it. But let the time come and then maybe we are able to see if it [turns out to be] good or bad.

Dental News: Why is Pakistan’s post-graduation degree lagging behind on global level?

Dr Ambrina: I think the culture of thinking and [especially] the culture of critical thinking, to be more precise and the culture of questioning, is lacking in our country. Our postgraduate or be it be our undergraduate students, I think they all are lagging behind because they are not given chances. They themselves are not in a habit of questioning. They are rather overburdened by a spate of assignments, quizzes and presentations and you know things like that. So all the time they are more focused on to meet their concerned targets…And this is with both the undergraduates as well as Post-Graduates. I think this culture needs to be instilled in our society .The culture of questioning and critical thinking is important, you know.

Dental News: In clinical practice we have a higher male to female ratio as dental professionals in Pakistan, why do you think this trend is prevailing?

Dr Ambrina: There are many females in this profession, when the [admission in dental colleges] takes place. At the entrance there are many females and hardly any males. This could be because of the prevailing educational movement. But unfortunately, if we look into the other side of the picture, we will find out that only 15 percent of these women who have done their graduation, would continue their Post-Graduation or even you know pursue in their clinical fields. They are hardly given an opportunity to become head of the departments or institute, or like becoming Dean or Principal. There are very few women who get this chance. I think that is basically because of the gender inequity rather than inequality, I must say.

Dental News: As a woman, how do you think female dental professionals can work along with all the burdens they carry, some tips for them?

Dr Ambrina: To be very frank, this burden is not what they have put on their on their shoulders. Most of the burden is given to them by their male counterparts because probably they are not able to handle it (laughs). I think women are more powerful to carry that burden and they are very happy in carrying that burden.

But there is a little suggestion for them from my side. They need to be negotiators. They need to learn how to negotiate things which, unfortunately, we were not taught while we were developing. So I think for the new generation of the females, it’s my advice that they should learn how to negotiate with the things, how to negotiate with the burden which had been given to them. [They should learn] how to lessen it down and how to put it back on male counterpart. This is my answer.

Dental News: What are the hot topics for dental researches these days?

Dr Ambrina: It’s the way how you present it. It’s the way how you write it. Even if it is a very, you know, not a hot topic. If you write it in a way and you know sell it in a way that is impressive. I think it can become hot.

Dental News: Do you think research at under grad level really have any worth?

Dr Ambrina: As I mentioned earlier, Students need to develop those skills of critical thinking and questioning. And all this comes through working on research. So I think it’s very important for an undergraduate to start learning about research, yes.

Dental News: Any suggestions you want to give for dental students who are thinking to do research in future?

Dr Ambrina: Why in future why not in present? In fact they should start doing research now! And my sincere suggestion would be, if they really want to do research. There is this prevailing stereotypical comment that read more and you’ll understand more about research. What you [actually] need to read, that is important. Reading systematic reviews are important rather than reading some simple articles. Read systematic reviews! That is how you would come to know what is happening all over world. Systematic reviews would give you conclusive ideas where the gap is and how you can fill those gaps. So get into a habit of reading systematic reviews of all the topics that are of your interest.

Dental News: Researches done in Pakistan are still struggling to level with the ones done on international level, how do you think this difference can be eradicated?

Dr Ambrina: How this difference can be eradicated? Maybe its answer would come later. Why this is happening is more important. This is happening because, again I think our undergrads even our post grads, and they are not given the proper guidance of how to do research. As I already mentioned, they should develop a habit of reading systematic reviews. Reading systematic reviews with meta-analysis would give them an idea where the gap is [by comparing it with] the international level and where those gaps need not to be and how those gaps need to be filled. So once they do that, there is nothing that can stop them from publishing into good international journals or from doing international level trials and researches. What currently they are doing is they are copying researchers which are already being done. So copying is not research. Doing it again and in their own good methodological, you know, that is the need of the day.

Dental News: Any message for new dentists

Dr Ambrina: They should understand what our public needs are, what they really want. And you should help them understand their needs as well. So awareness is important. Spread awareness for the sake of this public.

February 15, 2020

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