Phil is the Clinical Director for Dentistry and Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and Clinical Lead for Restorative Dentistry at Barts Health NHS Trust in London and here he explains how a Bolton School education helped him on the path to a successful career in Dentistry
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
Strangely for someone who has taken a career in Science I was most interested in History during my early years, but developed more towards the sciences of Biology, Mathematics and Chemistry as I moved into the Upper 5th and Sixth Form. Mr John Taylor (no relation) was an inspiration as a maths teacher and he held the whole form’s respect, but generated interest at the same time. I observed teachers’ styles, often mocking their characters, and how they affected my learning and have used the information gleaned to influence my own teaching style even to this day.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
I went up to Newcastle upon Tyne University to study Dentistry and then spent 12 years in general practice as associate and later practice owner. During that time I gained the Membership in General Practice of the Royal College of Surgeons of England which only 200 dentists ever achieved and I was the first in Northumberland to do so. After that I moved to London to do specialist training at The Eastman Dental Hospital where I gained my MSc (University of London) and then the ticket for specialist completion, the Fellowship in Dental Surgery of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Membership in Restorative Dentistry of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
I am currently the Clinical Director for Dentistry and Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and Clinical Lead for Restorative Dentistry at Barts Health NHS Trust with around 45 consultants based at two hospitals and in the local community service, this is the largest acute Trust in the country. I am Consultant in Restorative Dentistry, Specialist in Restorative Dentistry and in Prosthodontics, Senior Lecturer in Adult Oral Health and Director of the postgraduate Doctoral course in Prosthodontics for Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh have made me Regional Dental Advisor for North London and I examine for them in the specialty examinations. I am also very active in three of the specialist societies and was President of the British Association of Teachers in Conservative Dentistry in 2013 handing over office to another Old Boy, Professor Avijit Banarjee (1974-88), from Guys Hospital in 2014.
Who/what influenced your career choice?
I wanted a career where I could use my hands and my brain, but shunned medicine because I did not want to do on call!
Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?
There are a few people in Dentistry who have influenced me in different ways. Mr Francis Armstrong, a GDP, mentored me in the politics of the British Dental Association and from him I learnt leadership and persistence. Professor John Murray taught me that if you have the drive you can achieve anything and he gave me a confidence to succeed. Finally when I moved into this role at QMUL, Professors Heath and Wright showed me kindness and encouragement for your team can bring untold rewards as they all pull together as one. Without my wife Sue, who has put up with all this, I would be nowhere.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
Compassion and hand-eye coordination are essential for dentistry, but above that you need to have confidence and knowledge. A self-reflective personality is both a blessing and a curse in that a wise person knows their limitations, but also can be a stressor in managing and overcoming life’s inevitable hurdles.
What do you like most about your job?
The people I work with are on the whole a fabulous and friendly team. I look after 45 consultants and am in charge of job planning for the whole trust which amounts to 15,000 people in all.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
Financial and performance targets are the most stressful and the governments of whichever party do not take into account the differences that different services face and the ‘one size fits all’ approach can and does hinder patient care.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
Without doubt that has been the opening of the first new Dental Hospital in the UK for 40 years (the last was Newcastle when I was an undergraduate student) which happened under my leadership. We moved from Friday in the old building to Monday in the new without interruption of patient care. This really was a momentous occasion, celebrated by a formal opening by Princess Anne.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
I think the School at that time was very focused on results and the expectation was that you would succeed. It was a place where unconsciously you were being shown that we can all succeed. Bolton School then was an Independent Grammar and I was lucky enough to get a Lancashire County Council sponsored place which meant my parents could afford for me to attend from Prep 1A through to Biology 6A, ten years of priceless education. The loss of these schools was a major mistake in British education.
What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?
Go to see the dental schools, speak to the students, speak to your own dentist and if you want it enough you can achieve it.