One of the most common questions we’re asked on open days is about studying abroad and how this fits into the dentistry programme. Whilst there isn’t an option for taking a year or term outside King’s, every dental student does have the opportunity to go abroad in the form of an elective. Taking place at the end of fourth year, students are required to undertake 7 days of observation in a dental environment to learn more about different populations and how we as healthcare professionals can serve them best. For some students, this may mean working with consultants to explore a specialism they are interested in, whilst others chose to do a more hands-on research or audit project within the hospital, something which looks great in their portfolio. Most, however, chose to go abroad and see dentistry in a completely new environment. Many students combine multiple practices and hospital placements with travelling, making it a summer to remember. Some students choose to go to one of the many hospitals King’s has connections with, some organise their own placements, often in groups with other students, and others travel with tour companies, with specially designed programmes combining a clinical experience with tourist and sightseeing activities.
I recently talked to one of our final year students, Natasha, about her elective experience last August.
Lauren: Where did you go on your elective?
Natasha: I went to Shah Alam in Malaysia for my placement, then went to Mulu and Singapore for tourism.
Lauren: Why did you choose to go abroad rather than stay in the UK?
Natasha: To experience dentistry in another country and to be able to compare to the UK and see differences in techniques and materials. I also wanted to be able to explore another country and to meet new people.
Lauren: Do you think the elective is a useful part of the BDS programme?
Natasha: Yes definitely! I experienced a lot and it is very important to be able to be able to compare and learn how dentistry is carried out in other settings and places.
Lauren: Would you consider working abroad as a dentist in the future?
Natasha: Potentially depending on the country, and scope for new dentists.
Lauren: How did King’s support you before, during and after your elective?
Natasha: We had a talk about the elective and a lot of information given to us about finding an elective, safety whilst on the elective and informing us of grants available. We were also given a very useful information booklet with anything we could possibly need. There was an elective database on KEATS (our online learning resource) too, which showed where previous students visited, and also any feedback they gave.
The BDA has a great online resource to help plan the elective, with advice on where to go and how to arrange a placement.
Electives aren’t the only international opportunities available to students studying at King’s. Funding is available for students wishing to attend conferences abroad, giving them the opportunity to present their research and find out what’s happening in the world of dentistry, both outside the University and the UK. From time to time there are also student exchange trips between King’s and other internationally renowned institutions, including the two week trip to China happening this summer. Take a look at these recent stories about King’s dental students visiting South Africa for their elective and Lebanon to provide much needed care to Syrian refugees as part of the university Sanctuary Programme.
It’s clear from talking to both new and existing students that the elective is one of the most exciting periods at dental school, and something you can really personalise to your interests, both in terms of clinical exposure and travel. Why not check out the MDU’s Facebook page for inspiration? Their elective photo competition takes place every month, and who knows, maybe one day your photo will feature on their wall!
Here’s to planning an epic elective,