As her year working at the GDC draws to an end, Javeriah Mahmood reflects on her time as one of the Clinical Fellowship Scheme’s first cohort.

New territory for everyone

It’s been a challenging and insightful year, not just for me working in a new environment, but I think also for the GDC. As this was the inaugural year of the chief dental officer’s scheme, it meant new territory for me and for the organisation, and because of this we began with quite a bit of uncertainty about what lay ahead.

Challenges in regulation

The practical experience of policy development and also of seeing things from another perspective have been really useful. It’s given me the confidence to use my voice to raise issues and challenge the established wisdom. It’s also highlighted to me the power of collaboration and working with others.

What I didn’t realise in clinical practice is the complexity of situations sometimes faced by those in governing roles. There are often multiple factors to take into account, which are not apparent from the outside looking in, each of which needs to be weighed and prioritised. For me, one of the major barriers that I didn’t appreciate before I started is the legislative framework the GDC operates within, much of which is outdated and seems to hinder rather than help.

Importance of the Fellowship Scheme for dentistry

There are a number of current and future challenges that we in dentistry face, including – but not limited to – dental contract reform, workforce planning, an ageing population and advances in digital technology. I think it’s important that clinicians are involved in working towards progressive solutions in these areas and, to be able to do that effectively, we need the right skills and knowledge. This is why the opportunities on offer through the Clinical Fellowship Scheme are so important.

As clinicians, we are in the unique position of being able to experience and understand both sides of the coin, so to speak, and so we can bring this knowledge to policy development. For anyone with a potential interest in this, I really would encourage them to think about applying for a fellowship year.

What I gained from the scheme

In terms of my own development, I have gained a huge amount. Experience of leading and managing projects, chairing meetings, attending committee meetings and presenting to various audiences to name just a few. I have been given the opportunity to expand my network and to learn from others – both within and outside the dental world. I have particularly enjoyed working with people from backgrounds outside of dentistry as I have found that it has broadened my own horizons and taught me to think about things from different perspectives.

I also learned from the experiences of other clinical fellows – the dental fellows as well as our medical and pharmacy colleagues. The regular study days have really given us an opportunity to gain theoretical knowledge and meet like-minded people.

…and finally

I believe that expanding the scheme to include more organisations and opening it up to dental care professionals would be hugely beneficial for the profession and I look forward to seeing how the scheme progresses.

Finally, I’d like to thank The Office of the Chief Dental Officer and the General Dental Council who gave me this opportunity and helped me develop and progress over the past 12 months.