My reasons for embarking on the course after thirteen years of working in private general practice were mainly associated with the frustration of attending various continuing education courses, but feeling like I was merely achieving superficial glimpses into interesting and important topics. Haphazard independent study of journals and textbooks also failed to achieve the depth and breadth of knowledge I wished to achieve. Due to family, professional and business commitments any course that required a lot of set hours was going to be impractical for quite a while. I had toyed with the idea of enrolling in the FRACDS or MRACDS course since graduation, but there always seemed to be other priorities for the time and resources required.
Primary Dental Sciences Examination (PDS)
In the end the FRACDS pathway was more appealing, mainly because it provided an opportunity to get back into the basic sciences behind clinical dentistry- the interest in these sciences is after all what originally brought most of us into this field. The Primary Dental Sciences Examination (previously Primary Examination) preparation course was challenging and inspiring. Studying subjects such as anatomy now, as opposed to a first year dentistry student, was a completely different experience. It was clear that a new level of understanding, both in minute detail and whole system level, was required. Our lecturers were always approachable and keen to help us understand what was going to be required of us. However, what impressed me most was the camaraderie I encountered. Many stories were shared of professional and personal life in places as diverse as United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and remote regions of Australia. Fellow candidates and College staff were always eager to assist, motivate and encourage. USB sticks with helpful resources were passed around freely, and any questions or concepts someone wished to clarify, were met with enthusiastic and helpful discussions. At the end of the course study groups and mailing rings were formed, and the discussions continued online. The steady trickle of emails containing useful articles continued throughout the Primary and Fellowship Examination processes.
Fellowship Examination (GDP)
Perhaps somewhat counter intuitively studying for the Fellowship Examination proved a lot more challenging for me. It was difficult to formulate an effective study plan, when it was unclear what material should be covered. The Fellowship Examination workshop also raised a lot more questions than provided answers as to topics and depths required. This is not intended as a criticism for the course however; I understand completely that the purpose is to develop independent critical thinking and research skills. Seeking assistance of mentors, or accepting the study notes and journal lists kindly offered by other candidates was an option, but I concluded that to get the most benefit from the course, I had to find my way out of the metaphorical wilderness myself. In order to do so vast amounts of material had to be read through. There was not a family holiday or a ballet rehearsal where textbooks and piles of articles didn’t come along. Videos and audio files from Australian Dental Association’s Digital Media Library also proved useful for inventive time management. I was very grateful for the flexibility of the timeframe for attending the Fellowship Examination, since not only was the process time consuming, but it also allowed for unexpected increases in other commitments. Slowly I built up a folio of articles and study notes, organised into relevant topics, each section headed by a list of key references requiring memorising. I keep adding to this folder even now- it has become a home for any interesting and important articles I come across, and a resource to refer back to when needed.
In the end, was the process worthwhile? I would go as far as to say it has restored my faith in dentistry, and in dentists. I am excited and inspired to be a part of this constantly evolving field, and there is a long list of topics I wish to delve into with my newly found skills. If the camaraderie and collegiality experienced during the program are any indication of what to expect as a Fellow of the College, I am very much looking forward to taking part in College activities in the future.