Interview: ICD strives to advance dentistry in underdeveloped countries
After completing BDS from de’ Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore in 1979, Prof Dr Arshad Malik served as Principal of Dental Section and Head of Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad and Sahara Medical College, Narowal. Dr Arshad has an experience of more than 26 years of teaching. He has been examiner of many dental colleges in Pakistan including College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, University of Health Sciences Lahore, Punjab University, Ghandhara University, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. He has also been elected as President emeritus of Central council, Pakistan Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and President of Pakistan Dental Association, Chakwal in 2018. Currently, Prof. Dr Arshad is the Principal and Dean of HBS Dental College, Islamabad. He is also Regent and Fellow of International College of Dentists (ICD) Section XV (Region 24) Afghanistan, Pakistan. He is a regular presenter in many international conferences with special reference to ICD as invited speaker.
Recently Dental Tribune Pakistan sat down to talk about his journey as a Regent and Fellow of ICD for our readers. Excerpts from his interview are as under:
Dental Tribune Pakistan: As a Regent and Fellow of International College of Dentists (ICD), can you please explain more about it?
Dr Arshad: International College of Dentists is an international organisation. It was established in 1926 when two people, one from Japan and one from the U.S., collaborated as a pioneer of the International College of Dentists. The central theme was to spread humanitarian work among dental surgeons residing around the world. Then, over time, more people started joining the organisation. Now more than 30 countries have been part of the International College of Dentists since its establishment. International College of Dentists is a well-known organisation throughout the world and popularly known for its values, educational ethics, promotion, attitude towards dentistry. Not only in the domain of dentistry, but International College of Dentists is also famous for disaster management participation, for humanitarian work, especially in Asia and other underdeveloped countries. International College of Dentists is working for the sparse population, and especially regarding dental health. They are giving free seminars to spread awareness about dental hygiene, providing free medicines, organising free dental camps, and assisting dental surgeons who don't have financial or logistical support. International College of Dentists reaches out to such people throughout the world in times of need.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: Are all potential members in ICD nominated by fellows and what are the essential requirement to be nominated? Are accomplishments in dentistry, humanitarian work, or both required?
Dr Arshad: To be a fellow of the International College of Dentists is a great honour. The fellowship is awarded not through demand or by request. It is allocated after the thorough assessment of the organisation. A committee is being trained to assess the quality and standard of education acquired, humanitarian work, as well as the contribution of the dentist. Scholars of dentistry who are devoting their work, time for the promotion of dentistry, are always eligible.
Candidates are categorised on three criteria, academics, humanitarian work for the general public, and dental community. Dental Surgeons who are actively participating at times of disaster, in management of the underprivileged population, the dental community, promotion of dentistry, research, the spread of dental awareness in schools as well as in hospitals, are always considered by ICD.
If a person fulfils approximately 90 per cent of criteria set by ICD, they will be eligible for the Fellowship of International College of Dentists. After that, they are assessed by the committees of country and country region.
After that, they are sent to the section committee. Then it is sent to the headquarters of ICD, which is in Michigan, the U.S. for final approval by the International College of Dentists.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: What are the changes, progress and developments in ICD Pakistan that you are the happiest about today?
Dr Arshad: ICD was established in Pakistan around 1965, and from that period onwards so many regents and fellows have been registered in Pakistan. But it was Prof. Dr M A Soofi who as a regent brought significant development in ICD-Pakistan.
I was awarded as a regent of the International College of Dentists in 2012, and after that, ICD-Pakistan has progressed rapidly. Every year more than 50 fellows are being registered as a part of ICD from Pakistan. We were participating in Section 20 in the past, then in Section 15. Now, in every international conference and seminar, ICD-Pakistan is participating. Referred to as region 24, Pakistan is part and parcel of every Section 15 event, and that is in itself an achievement.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: Why do you think Pakistani dental researchers are not at par on the global level?
Dr Arshad: There are many factors behind it that should be established first in our country. Our research centres are not so equipped; research criteria are not comprehensive and educational tendency is not as potent as Western ones. That is why we are suffering from the research parameter. If I talk about western countries, they have better capabilities, equipment, and resources. Yet there are a couple of institutes in Pakistan that are no doubt performing an extraordinary task in research. Health Commission of Pakistan is working on it. Now one cannot say that it is as retarded as it was before. We are on the path of success in the research development in Pakistan.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: What do you think are the significant challenges facing the dental community today?
Dental Tribune Pakistan: We are facing many challenges in the dental community. The issues are not just limited to the dental curriculum as this has been more in focus since now we have different universities working to promote it. However, the priority should be given to basic sciences and taught well. Dental radiology, pedodontics, geriatric dentistry, oral medicine... these subjects are not being potentiated, not being highlighted on a post-graduate level; which is a big challenge.
There is a constant lack of development of dental technology. We have only one or two manufacturers of dental equipment and dental utensils in Pakistan. There are zero manufacturers of dental materials in our country, and hence it has to be imported.
Another issue is mismanagement among the dental community. Pakistan Medical and Dental Council is there, but there is a lack of organising committees, orientation, and coordination among general dental surgeons. These are the limitations we are facing as a dental community.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: COVID-19 has caused a setback for post-graduation students as well. What's your take on that?
Dr Arshad: Post-graduate students have suffered a lot due to COVID-19. And especially all those post-graduate students who have to practically deal with the patients or conduct research on the patient. It has suffered a lot. Many researchers have discontinued their studies and are waiting for the lockdown to end. The post-graduate students who are coming to the labs, especially the ones who are dealing with animals are also affected because labs are closed. The management of animals is difficult in times of pandemic. Telephonic or online assistance is the only way left for post-graduate students to communicate with their supervisors, which again cannot be sufficient.
Dental Tribune Pakistan: Last message for dental students?
Dr Arshad: My last message for dental students is to make use of this precious time. You are at home. There is no check and balance. This period belongs to you. Your teachers are away. We cannot monitor your time. You have to take care of this precious time. With the online classes, please take advantage of them and whatever the problem you are facing at your home, please contact your teachers and try to solve them online. I think we can pray for this period to end and pray that Almighty helps us to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.