30 Seconds with Bal Chana
The BADT president is a Games Maker at London 2012, taking place a stone’s throw away from where she was brought up. Here, she talks retail therapy, cocktails and male strippers
Why did you want to be a dental hygienist/therapist?
My GP, who was a family friend, sparked off the interest by suggesting dentistry as a profession.
When did you qualify as a dental care professional?
I qualified in 1992 from Bart’s and The London, which was the first school that trained both dental hygienists and therapists. There were only eight of us trained per year in the UK at that time with the dual qualification.
How do you think the role of dental hygiene and therapy has changed since you qualified?
The profession has more awareness of the role of a dental therapist. Dental therapists are now allowed to work in general dental practice. When I qualified, I had two different jobs. I worked in the community dental services as a dental therapist and then in a general dental practice as a dental hygienist. I had to be fully aware of the remit, especially in general dental practice, where I could only carry out treatment stated under the remit of a dental hygienist, despite having the skills to carry out restorative care for my patients. This was very frustrating at times. I would have to refer patients back to the dentist for restorative treatment, knowing fully that I am capable of doing this but was unable to. Thankfully the doors opened in 2002.
Are more general dental practices now aware of a therapist’s role in practice/within the community?
Yes, slowly but surely – however, GDPs are not fully aware of how to utilise a dental therapist within a general dental practice.
What is it like to be a dental care professional at the moment?
Who has inspired you most in your career?
My colleague and dear friend, Sarah Murray, she has encouraged me throughout my career and is always there when I need her. She was the one that assisted me with the proposal that was submitted to the GDC for direct access for dental therapy.
How do you feel the dental care professional will change or develop in the future?
If and when we get the green light for direct access, this was change the way dentistry is delivered. Dental hygienists and therapists will be able to work within their scope of practice, deciding the best care pathway and appropriate intervention for patients. This is vital for not only the profession but also for the improvement of the oral health of the nation, enabling greater choice and flexibility for the patients.
If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be?
I cannot see myself in any other profession – dental therapy is my passion.
Is the cup half full or half empty?
Half full. I try to have a positive outlook to life.
Where and when do you feel you have been the most successful in your career to date?
I feel my success has been over the last five years or so. Having a number of roles with BADT has lead me to represent the Association on a number of boards and committees at national level, and this has enabled me to build relationships with key people. I am also appointed as a DCP Inspector with the GDC, with involves quality assuring hygiene and therapy programmes. Both of these roles, along with my role as deputy principal of the Dental Hygiene and Therapy programme at Bart’s and The London, have lead to my development and hence success.
Would you encourage people into a career in dentistry?
Have you had any unusual experiences in your career? (respecting confidentiality)
I treated a male stripper and apparently he phoned the surgery to ask if I will be going to his place to treat him or whether he had to attend the surgery – not sure what sort of treatment he was expecting! When he attended for his appointment, I was completely oblivious to who he was and was unaware of his conversation with the receptionist. Following treatment, I found I had make-up on my gloves. I mentioned this to the receptionist after the appointment, who said do you not know who that was? I didn’t!
What keeps you awake at night?
What word, phrase, metaphor or saying best describes you?
What frustrates you about dental hygiene and therapy?
What are the three things you wish you’d known when you were training?
1. To believe in myself
2. The fantastic training. I would like to say a big thank you to all the fantastic DCP tutors that I had: Jane Holt, Sylvia Van De Blerk, Denise Stiff and Pam William
3. That I would be a successful dental therapist.
What is the best success story of your career?
Being the first dental therapist to be awarded the accolade of Dental Therapist of the year in 2006.
What do you do to relax?
Retail therapy followed by dining with a glass of wine or two and perhaps the odd cocktail. I also like travelling.
What is your motto in life?
Make the most of it (life)
What couldn’t you do without?
How do you think/hope your patients would describe you?
How do you think/hope your peers would describe you?
Approachable, friendly and sincere I would like to believe, with few exceptions.
And lastly, how do you feel about your new role at London 2012?
Very excited and honoured with this opportunity. I can give back to the local community where I was born and grew up. The venue is about a 20-minute walk from my house. The area has development immensely and has completely changed to when I was a child.
We are known as a Games Maker. As a Games Maker, I am hoping to treat the great and the good in sport; obviously patient confidentiality will be adhered to. In February, I will be attending an orientation and induction session which will give me a clearer insight into my role.
Bal Chana qualified at The London Hospital as a dental hygienist and therapist in 1992 and then worked in the community dental service where she gained a wealth of experience.
After two years tutoring at the Eastman Dental Hospital, she joined the team at Bart’s and The London, where she currently holds the position of deputy principal dental hygiene and therapy tutor.
She also continues to work part-time in a general dental practice, and also as a DCP Inspector for the General Dental Council. Bal represented the British Association of Dental Therapists on a number of boards in her previous position as immediate past chair. She was the first dental therapist to receive the accolade for Dental Therapist of the Year in 2006.