Sydney dental community bands together during COVID-19

19 May 2020
Supporting each other during challenging times
From redesigning the simulation clinics to ensure students can graduate on time to setting up a communal pantry with donated essential goods, Sydney Dental School staff have been going above and beyond to support their students during COVID-19.

In a letter to the Sydney Dental School community, Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean has expressed his sincere gratitude to staff and students for their ongoing commitment to supporting each other during these challenging times.

Students and educators are on the frontline at Sydney Dental Hospital during COVID-19, providing essential dental services to those in need.

A message from Professor Heiko Spallek,

In all decisions made during this crisis, the leadership of the Faculty of Medicine and Health in collaboration with the Sydney Dental School have prioritised the safety, health and wellbeing of all students, staff and their patients.

All classroom activities such as lectures, seminars and group work have moved online and our education support team, led by Arthi Gopal, have done a tremendous job turning their plans up-side-down to redraft timetables and simulation clinic rosters which will ensure our students can graduate on time.

In equal measures, our academic staff have worked extremely hard to change the delivery format of our didactic offerings to online delivery and our students have had to adapt to studying in virtual classrooms from home.

This part of our transition was easy, relatively speaking, in comparison to other changes in our program. To ensure the continuity of skill development for our students, we were challenged by the closure of all clinical placements for our DMD and BOH programs.

In consultation with University of Sydney infectious disease experts, clinical educator Andrew Terry was able to develop a protocol to safely use the simulation clinics with reduced class sizes, strict daily screening routines, social distancing rules and proper infection control measures including the appropriate use of PPE.

As the only dental school in Australia that continued to operate simulation clinics, some initially questioned our approach, but we have since received many requests from other Australian and international dental schools for details of how we were able to achieve what we did.

Our students are thankful that we have continued to give them opportunities to practice their skills, and Andrew Terry has been recently invited to join the Committee for Guideline Establishment of the Association for Dental Education Asia Pacific in acknowledgement of his pioneering work.

From a student experience standpoint, we also acknowledged the need to provide increased support to our students during the COVID-19 outbreak, where social distancing and separation from friends and family can bring a real risk of disconnection and disengagement.

We are proud to have been trailblazers within the Faculty of Medicine and Health community, with many of our initiatives to support students subsequently being adopted by other schools including;

  • hosting multiple student information webinars, both for the whole school and individual student cohorts
  • talking individually to domestic and international students (and their families) to help support those experiencing loss of income and those challenged with difficult decisions regarding deferring their studies
  • advertising bursaries for financial support available to both domestic and international students for those who have lost casual employment.

I would like to acknowledge and thank all our staff and students for the way they have and are continuing to handle the circumstances we currently find ourselves in.

Many have displayed a commitment to excellence and courage that supports exactly the leadership and culture that guides the Faculty of Medicine and Health mission to “Inspire our teams to transform the future and fulfil their potential.”

Professor Heiko Spallek, Head of School and Dean, Sydney Dental School

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