School of Dental Sciences

Summer Newsletter 2017


As you will see from the contents of this term’s Newsletter, this has been a very exciting term. One piece of fantastic news was the University has achieved the highest possible rating in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

We are one of only eight Russell Group universities to achieve a Gold Award and this result for teaching and learning sits alongside the University’s sustained success in a number of student experience surveys, including the recent Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey which ranked Newcastle in the top 10 for student experience in the UK for the third year in a row.‌

The TEF Panel judged that we deliver consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for our students, of the highest quality found in the UK.  As Professor Suzanne Cholerton, the PVC for Learning and Teaching said, “The award of TEF Gold status is a ringing endorsement of Newcastle University’s dedication to providing outstanding teaching which supports exceptional outcomes for our students”.  Newcastle was one of only 3 Universities in the Russell Group with Dental Schools who received a Gold TEF Award.  We have always been very proud of our approach to learning and teaching in Newcastle and I am delighted that this has now been recognised in this national award.   You can read more about the result in Newcastle University's official press release and find out more on our excellent teaching and some of the many academics who help support our students in our TEF submission.

I hope you have enjoyed the new format of the Schools’ newsletter this year.  As we end one Academic year and move into the next I look forward to hearing from graduates, alumni, and friends both about the new format and about things that have been happening in the “wider Newcastle Family” that we may be able to include in the future.‌

JMT and MW at TEA event
Mark Thomason and Melissa Walker at this year's Teaching Excellence Awards celebration

Freedom City 2017

This year marks 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King receiving an honorary degree from Newcastle University.

Freedom City 2017 is packed with large-scale outdoor events, exhibitions, public art, musical performances and an education and academic programme paying tribute to Dr King’s passionate and moving acceptance speech delivered at Newcastle University on 13 November 1967.

Dental alumna, Meredyth Bell, who was a President of the Student Union at the time of the visit, shared some memories of meeting Dr King:

“As to Martin Luther King, he was a great presence. Spoke directly, with total focus on the person he was talking to. He asked me what I was studying.  I said dentistry.  He commented that it was a worthwhile profession.

My memory is rather hazy but he was very handsome and had "bodyguards" who all wore amazing mohair suits.

His speech later left a lasting impression. His use of English was exquisite and pauses (he hadn’t rehearsed it!) were dramatic and his emphasis unforgettable! When he was assassinated the following year I felt a personal loss.”

Martin Luther King

Founders and Benefactors lecture

Mind the gap? Tackling oral health inequalities, with Professor Richard Watt

We were delighted and privileged to spend a Friday afternoon in June with Richard Watt. As many will know, Richard is a long-standing friend of Newcastle and a key collaborator on National surveys and policy initiatives with North East colleagues including John Murray, Catherine Exley, John Wildman, Richard Holmes and Jimmy Steele. His lecture continued our 7-year programme of topics selected as relevant to both oral health professionals and members of the general-public. Health inequalities can found in all countries and healthcare systems, with common patterns based around affluence, education and accessibility. Contrasting life expectancies in different wards of UK and international cities provided a shocking insight into general health inequalities and the differing life opportunities of those who happen to be born in different circumstances. Richard went on to discuss the role of Public Health physicians and dentists in addressing these gaps and finding new ways to reach those on the wrong side of the divide. Sadly, the evidence suggests that much of our historical effort to educate, motivate and change behaviour only served to broaden the gaps, with those in greatest need benefitting the least. In a thoughtful and challenging address, he went on to explore the complex links between personal circumstances and health-experience and the opportunities for effective political, and personal intervention. The 2017 Founders and Benefactors Day lecture absolutely hit the mark, welcoming a towering figure to share thoughtful insights on a topic of interest to those concerned with public services and social justice. We are extremely grateful to Richard and look forward to continued Newcastle collaboration in understanding and tackling the many outstanding challenges in population-based healthcare.

The Founders and Benefactors Day lecture is our one public lecture of the year. We are always eager to hear your views on its timing and format, and on opportunities to enhance its relevance and reach for both professional colleagues and members of the general-public.

Founders and Benefactors 2017

Exchange with Indiana University

In May, the School of Dental Sciences welcomed 6 dental students from Indiana University School of Dentistry in the USA.

On 16th May, the School of Dental Sciences welcomed 6 dental students from Indiana University School of Dentistry in the USA for a week where they shadowed our students on clinics, attended lectures and delivered oral health education to diverse community groups across Newcastle upon Tyne. This is the second year we have hosted dental students from the USA and we are very grateful to all the students and staff in the dental school and hospital who contributed to its success. In particular, we are very grateful once again for the input from Mrs Debora Howe (Oral Health Promotion Lead) who was heavily involved in small group teaching with the students from Indiana and in arranging placements in numerous community settings including local primary schools, and a refugee drop-in centre in the west-end. The students were accompanied by two members of academic staff from Indiana - Dr Joan Kowolik and Dr Stuart Schrader.

Student exchange with Indiana University

Student exchange with Indiana University

Student news

Staff news

Ralf Kist in Kyoto

Ralf Kist has commenced his 3-month long research sabbatical in Kyoto. He shared with us his first impressions since his arrival in June.

My research stay at Kyoto University is the result of a long-standing connection with Japanese researchers. I'm working as a Visiting Research Scholar in the laboratory of Prof Yuji Hiraki (Director of the Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences). He's an expert in cartilage biology and the mentor of Prof Chisa Shukunami (now: Institute of Biomedical & Health Sciences, Hiroshima University) who I have been collaborating with for many years (Development paper published in 2013).

Broadly, I'm investigating the musculo-skeletal integration of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) in mice (Project title: Analysis of functional contribution of the Scx+/Sox9+ cell population to development of the temporomandibular joint). This work will form the basis for future projects relating to the cellular and molecular mechanisms of TMJ development and age-related TMJ disorders.

Yuji and Chisa have given me a warm welcome on my first day (19/06) and we discussed the ongoing work and potential for collaborations. We also met Prof Atsuko Sehara-Fujisawa (Department of Regeneration Science and Engineering) who I’m also collaborating with (…we currently have a paper under review). Atsuko made coffee and we ended up talking about the state of research across the world. In the evening, we went out for dinner.

Yuji and Chisa also made arrangements for networking with other researchers. In Yuji’s lab, I will mainly be working with Drs Taki Akimoto and Shigenori Miura who are senior postdocs, and they will teach me new techniques. On 30/06-01/07, I will be attending the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Genome Editing in Osaka and meet my friends Chikara Kokubu and Norio Sakai who I got to know during my time as PhD student in Germany. On 18-22 July, I will be staying in Chisa’s lab in Hiroshima and interact with her group. I intend to present my preliminary data there and discuss future plans. Life in Japan can sometimes be difficult due to the language barrier but people are very friendly and patient. I’ve also made some attempts at speaking Japanese but I don’t know more than the usual phrases …which doesn’t get me far. Yuji’s secretary, Hiromi Sugiyama, has been incredibly helpful with the paperwork (all in Japanese!). She also helped me with opening a bank account and paying the rent…that was an experience!

The food is excellent here! I go for lunch with Shigenori and Aki almost every day and they have taken me to fantastic places!

Ralf Kist in Kyoto