In this two-part interview, Diana Spencer talks to Professor Simon Wright and Captain Steve Hawkins ahead of their lecture for Alpha Omega.
In part one, we hear from Professor Simon Wright (MSc BDS PGCTLCP PGDip Implant Dentistry). He has been a principal partner of the Glencairn Dental group of practices since 2002.
He is a founding director of both Dental Implant Resource Ltd and the ICE Hospital and Postgraduate Training Centre.
Simon is the clinical lead for the dental postgraduate masters course of dental implantology at Salford and Edge Hill University.
He lectures nationally and internationally on dental implantology and human factors. He is the co-author of the FGDP National Standards in Implant Dentistry – to be published later this year.
His current research interest areas are patient-related outcome measures. He investigates ways to measure the benefit of dental implant treatment – and human factors.
Professor Wright has a keen interest in surgical performance. He has been invited to participate in the first ‘European Congress About Human Factors and Medicine’ in Paris.
He has developed human factors as a major research theme at the University of Salford and is the chairman of the National Advisory Board in Human Factors.
Why did you choose dentistry?
Simon Wright (SW): My dad was in the air force and he brought me up on air force bases. I always assumed I would end up a pilot because I was surrounded by aeroplanes.
However, I asked my father what he would do if he had his time again, and I distinctly remember his answer: ‘I love being an engineer but the most fascinating machine is the human body so I would have loved to be a doctor or a dentist.’
This struck me a good idea. Furthermore, I am very practical in my outlook. I wanted to be hands-on more than desk-driven, so dentistry seemed to be the logical choice. I haven’t looked back since!
What excites you most about the practice of dentistry?
SW: Obviously, I love the clinical side of dentistry, but what really excites me is human factors.
I am fascinated by understanding how we can increase patient safety and performance by investigating how we interact with our environment and our team.
We can also use this to deal with the pressures of practice. The whole science of human factors is amazing and I am looking forward to talking about it on the Alpha Omega webinar on 9 February (visit alphaomegauk.co.uk/our-events for more details).
How do you unwind?
SW: I don’t really unwind so to speak… I’m always working. But I do enjoy going for a run, where I can put the world to rights.
I also have two Labradors who need walking, and I enjoy skiing and sailing. But to be honest, I just love my work!
What advice would you offer an upcoming dental student?
SW: Expose yourself as much as possible to different areas in dentistry – but then my advice would be to only focus on one area that you enjoy. Then become really good at it rather than trying to be a dental jack of all trades.
How do you see dentistry in five or 10 years?
SW: I thought a lot about this… firstly, with the work that I am doing with the General Dental Council (GDC) and the regulators I hope that we are going to start moving away from the medical ethos of infallibility where we can’t make mistakes. And if we do, these are all dealt with by blame and punishment.
Instead, I see dentistry moving more towards the style of the aviation industry, which is a more supportive culture, where they share and learn from errors and operate a system-based approach to fixing problems rather than blaming individuals.
So I see dentistry becoming more open and supportive. This is a big change and I feel it will take longer than 10 years.
I also believe that private dentistry will go more towards the style of the US. There, a general practitioner will be the gatekeeper for patients and refer them as necessary to specialists. There will, therefore, be much more of a development of the specialities.
What’s been your greatest challenge to date?
SW: For me, being a part of a profession means being a professional, which is not a nine-to-five job. So fitting downtime into that can definitely be a challenge. Luckily, I have a very understanding partner!
What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
SW: Well, I don’t get embarrassed easily, but once a patient came in requesting an implant as he had a post crown that had fallen out. He handed it to me in my bare hand and said: ‘The reason why I want an implant is that I keep swallowing this crown!’
Who was your mentor?
SW: There were two really influential people.
Professor David Speechley has been with me since I qualified and was my foundation trainer. We developed the practice together and he supported everything I have done. He has also been a great friend for many years, and I miss him now he is retired.
Professor Cemal Ucer has really been there and helped me develop my implant practice and surgical dentistry. He is now my partner at our teaching hospital in Salford Quays. He is my go-to man if I need any help or advice.
What advice would you give someone setting up their own surgery?
SW: The key is the team around you, which I believe defines you.
Do you have any regrets?
SW: None – I wouldn’t do anything differently!
Watch Captain Hawkins and Professor Wright discussing ‘Human factors in clinical practice’ live on Zoom on 9 February – register online at alphaomegauk.co.uk/our-events.
This article first appeared in Dentistry Magazine. You can read the latest issue here.