Consultant in Emergency Medicine Dr Chet Trivedy FFGDP(UK) is a member of the FGDP-CGDent-BDA Racial Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. As FGDP publishes a new report from the Diversity in Dentistry Action Group (DDAG), Chet discusses 'EDI' in dentistry and how the Faculty and College of General Dentistry are addressing these issues.
The last 18 months have been a roller coaster for most of us, and the COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our working and personal lives in ways which we had never imagined possible. Through the nature of the lockdown and the COVID-19 restrictions, members of the dental team were forced to adapt to a different way of working. The pandemic has also somehow made us all reflect on ourselves.
For me, it was the culmination of two events which made me reflect deeply on my ethnicity and my role as a healthcare professional. The first was the growing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to affect frontline healthcare workers, especially those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, more severely. The second was the global outrage following the high-profile death of George Floyd in the USA. For me, both of these unrelated events catapulted the topics of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) on to the global stage.
Despite the awful tragedy of these events, in my opinion they also provided an opportunity to drive open and honest discussions about race and gender and discrimination in the health sector. Having spent nearly three decades in the NHS in both dentistry and medicine, I am only too aware of the difficulty in speaking out openly against discrimination without feeling awkward, or even the fear of some kind of reprisal.
This new openness allowed the medical and dental professions to reflect and even challenge pre-pandemic ideology around EDI in order to create an open and accessible platform that would hopefully create genuine engagement and drive real change for the dental profession, which has a deep cultural heritage and a rich ethnic diversity. Although talking openly about EDI is one thing and achieving it another, we have to accept that there is no quick fix, and that progress will take time, a lot of time! I am of the view that the dental profession came together to fight COVID-19, so why can’t we unite to achieve better equality, diversity and inclusion for our colleagues and patients alike?
I was privileged, as a Fellow of the FGDP(UK), to be invited to be a part of the FGDP-CGDent-BDA Racial Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group back in September 2020. This diverse group of dental professionals from all realms of dentistry has worked tirelessly to understand the views of the dental profession, and to get a better grasp of the EDI-related challenges faced by a significant proportion of the dental profession. This exercise has also provided an opportunity to hear first-hand the experiences of members of the profession and reflect on not only when things went wrong, but also reflect on good practices and local EDI initiatives that have worked. It is important that we listen to the collective voice of the dental profession so that any EDI change or solutions are not only inclusive, but also allow members of the dental profession to have a degree of ownership in the conversation around EDI whilst remaining engaged throughout the process.
By encouraging every member of the dental team to feel comfortable about addressing EDI issues which go beyond ethnicity and include other areas such as gender, sexual orientation and disability, I feel there may be greater scope for a shift within the profession to embrace and implement positive culture change around EDI. It is with these open and honest dialogues within the workplace that we can hope to achieve any improvement in EDI practices.
Within a relatively short time, the FGDP-CGDent-BDA joint initiative has made significant headway in understanding the views and experiences of the profession through a national survey, and we are now working on looking at developing a variety of tools to help the dental profession take a more practical approach to EDI through Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) objectives. It is clear that there is no single solution for achieving our EDI goals within the dental profession, and what works well in one area may fail in another.
However, despite the fact that the pandemic has led to a number of challenges faced by dental professionals all over the country, we can hopefully look to this summer and future with cautious optimism, with the imminent relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions and the knowledge that we have had a successful vaccination programme. I hope this will provide us with a degree of confidence to move forwards in returning to the delivery of clinical care to our patients who have missed out on face-to-face care over the last year. EDI is as much an issue for them as it is for health care professions, and the pandemic has highlighted inequalities in healthcare for some populations, including in access to dental care. Understanding and responding to the needs of these populations is also an important EDI strategy that the profession needs to address.
The FGDP(UK) has led from the front on both developing the COVID-19 guidance for dental practitioners during the eye of the storm in the first lockdown last summer, as well as the ongoing work on EDI as part of the FGDP-CGDent-BDA working group. This work not only shows the incredible dedication, passion and leadership of the FGDP(UK) to serve its membership, but also highlights its role in shaping the future of the dental profession as it gets ready for its transition to the College of General Dentistry. We must remember change comes from within, and it is up to each and every member of our profession to engage with the new College and strive to be part of this change, which will make dentistry not only a more welcoming and attractive profession for the next generation of dental professionals, but will also drive standards for better care for all our patients.
I am confident and optimistic that under the leadership of the College of General Dentistry, the groundwork on the challenges related to EDI conducted by the FGDP-CGDent-BDA partnership will continue to grow, and we will start to see the fruits of this work soon.
Read Equality, diversity and inclusion within dentistry - a profession-wide commitment from the Diversity in Dentistry Action Group (DDAG).
Further information about the FGDP's work around EDI, together with links to related blogs and webinars, are available at https://www.fgdp.org.uk/edi.