The Annual Welsh Dental Conference has been held in Mid Wales for nearly twenty years and aims to provide cutting edge CPD and just as importantly a forum where dental teams and dental trainees can liaise, make contacts and feel part of something beyond the four walls of their surgeries.
As such it has been very successful in promoting high standards of clinical care and personal responsibility. Subjects covered over recent years have been up to date and stimulating, often bringing in high profile speakers from disciplines outside dentistry as well as names well known in the profession.
This year, in recognising the highly developed skills within the dental team and the ethos of our training the focus of the conference was on, in essence, third world work. Entitled 'One World, a focus on oral health imbalance' the conference sought to focus on four main areas of concern to the WHO, looking through the eyes of five volunteers who have worked in those areas in various countries.
Per Hall, consultant plastic surgeon and Clinical Director of the cleft lip and palate service of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge started the day off describing his work with the charity Operation Smile. This an operative and training interface with notable success in training local surgeons in cleft lip and palate surgery, in this instance in Ethiopia. His fascinating and well-illustrated talk was followed by the work of Facing Africa, another Ethiopia serving charity providing multinational Maxillofacial surgery for native populations as described by Bill Hamlin, consultant anaesthetist. Particularly a focus of Facing Africa is Noma, a hideously disfiguring disease of benighted populations itself with a very poor survival rate.
The afternoon was given over to areas where maybe more opportunities exist for the skills of general dental practice. Yvonne Wood, hygienist and Stuart Main, dental surgeon, described their ' working holidays' with Brdge2Aid, another operative/training charity that seeks to impart dental skills to local health workers. Particularly of interest to every member of the dental team, both described their work in Tanzania as one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things they had ever done.
Last session of the day was handed over to Cath Adams, polymath of the dental world to describe her work in Afghanistan. Carrying out emergency surgery, training in paediatric resuscitation, coping with the Talliban and surviving on boiled eggs and bottled water were all in a day's work to Cath...but her talk drew a lot of interest from aspiring volunteers.
The day was brought back to the home base by the recently appointed Chief Dental Officer for Wales, Colette Bridgeman. Introduced by well-known friend of the conference Lisa Howells (the Deputy CDO) , Colette, who forsook a high level London Conference to attend, outlined her vision for the development of dental services in Wales. Over the years the post of Chief Dental Officer seems to have grown closer to the profession it leads at parliamentary level and we were left in no doubt that in Colette's and Lisa's hands we have allies in high places.
The years spin by but the conference has always provided a unifying focus for all roles within the dental profession to meet as one, from all corners of the Principality. It is indeed a pleasure to organise and to be a part of.
Charlie Vaughan Jones
Postgraduate Tutor for Rural Wales