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A Decade in IMU: Perspectives as a Student and Clinician

11 Feb 2022

I am Dr Joseph Tan Meng Ern. I first joined IMU as an undergraduate student in the Bachelor of Dental Surgery programme in February 2009 as part of the second cohort. I recalled that I was so excited to begin this undergraduate course as I had been waiting for several months after completing my A-level programme. In fact, I had even bought some textbooks and started reading them a few months prior to the commencement of the course. The orientation week went by in a flash with many fun and memorable moments, but the friendships are still enduring till this day.

To be honest, I was initially not so pleased with what I felt was an over emphasis on self-directed learning within the undergraduate course. I remember requesting for more teaching sessions as I initially felt a little short-changed. As the course progressed, I finally understood the importance of self-directed learning in guiding my lifelong learning. The things that I self-learned, presented or shared, became concepts that I understood better and remained etched in my memory.

I also recall with fondness the emphasis on evidence-based dentistry. My special study module (research) supervisor Dr Abhishek spent hours daily, in guiding and sharing with me his wealth of experience. We also spent days poring through the literature and learning to critically appraise the available evidence.

My Stint as a District Dental Officer in Miri 
When I finally graduated, from IMU, I received my government posting as a dental officer in Miri, Sarawak along with 2 other course mates of mine. During my posting in both the government dental clinic and more so in the hospital postings, it became apparent that many of the concepts of evidence-based dentistry were the guiding principles of proper patient care, treatment and research. The district dental officer in Miri gave us tasks to perform surveys and minor research projects, while my chief oral surgeon had requested me to help with a clinical research project that he was preparing to carry out while I was in the department. I recalled with some level of pride, that both of my superiors, the district dental officer and chief oral surgeon had on a few occasions expressed their satisfaction and admiration at the level of competency of the IMU graduates working there.

As I was completing my 2 years of compulsory government service, I was informed by Prof Toh Chooi Gait, the then Dean of School pf Dentistry, about vacancies available in IMU. I jumped at the opportunity and rejoined IMU, this time as a dental officer in the Oral Health Centre.

However, rejoining IMU was not a smooth ride. I recalled the challenges of adapting from a government practice setting to a private practice setting. Initially, I felt that the focus on treatment on private fee-paying patients was rather demanding. At the same time, I began to be like many young dentists and have ambitious plans to enhance my clinical skills, try new procedures and gain new experiences as rapidly as possible. Soon, I realised with the help of my mentors that clinical knowledge and training had to be complemented by building up a wealth of experience gradually in order to grow my clinical practice.

Postgraduate Studies at IMU
With this in mind, I enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Implant Dentistry programme in 2016 hoping to gain further training in the field of implant dentistry. The programme helped to kickstart my journey in implant dentistry with sound clinical knowledge as a foundation to supervised practice in planning and placement of dental implants and the subsequent restoration of teeth. Even after I had completed my programme, I was able to continue my learning by consulting some of my lecturers who are now my colleagues and friends in order to brainstorm and provide the best care for my patients.

I am immensely grateful for the wealth of knowledge, experience and research that I can draw from the brilliant minds of giants in the profession within my alma mater. They had helped to shape my career over the past 10 years of my education and current clinical practice in IMU. Today it is my pleasure and privilege to continue on this proud tradition of excellence in evidence based clinical dental practice, along with the exciting advances emerging from ongoing research and development within the same four walls of where my journey first began over a decade ago.

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