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Working together to improve dental health

We interview Professor Mike Curtis, new Executive Dean of King’s College London’s Dental Institute and leader of the King’s Health Partners Dental Clinical Academic Group.

mike curtisProfessor Curtis is a distinguished microbiologist with a robust track record of academic leadership. He joins King’s College London from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University London (QMUL), where he was Dean of Dentistry and Deputy Vice-Principal Health.

What are your plans for the Dental Institute?

The Dental Institute starts the 2017/18 academic year in an excellent position.  Externally, in numerous international league tables, the Institute is now recognised as one of the globally leading institutions for oral and dental research and education.

We educate the breadth of oral health care professionals in the UK, and deliver research that changes clinical practice, informs policy, and creates new products to improve oral health.

Internally, our students have affirmed the high level of satisfaction with the undergraduate curriculum in the recent National Student Survey.

I have had the chance to meet many staff and students over the last few months and have been hugely impressed by both the warmth of the welcome I have received and the genuine sense of pride that everyone displays for King’s Dental Institute. I look forward to developing plans which build upon the current strong platform to further enhance the quality and levels of excellence of the Institute and to enable everyone here to meet their full potential.

Working with my King’s Health Partners colleagues I hope to consolidate the Dental Institute’s position as Europe’s most comprehensive centre for dental education, research and patient care.

How does cross-partner working benefit the Dental Institute?

Working across King’s Health Partners and in multidisciplinary teams the Dental Institute provides care for more than 300,000 patients each year at more than 30 sites across London.

The Clinical Academic Group (CAG) model we work in means we have the ability to bring experts together to give patients the very best care and treatment, based upon reliable research evidence that works.

Dental nursesWe are the major provider of specialist oral and dental services to an extremely large and diverse population in the south east of England. Through our joint multidisciplinary clinics with medical specialties, our CAG has the ability to provide services for people with complex and rare conditions.  Working in partnership with other disciplines we provide services in oncology with head and neck cancer, Behcet’s syndrome with ophthalmology, Sjogren’s syndrome with rheumatology, orofacial granulomatosis with gastroenterology/renal, and cognitive behavioural therapy with psychiatry.

What most excites you about working with King’s Health Partners?

King’s Health Partners provides an essential vehicle for delivering a step change in the delivery of all of our academic endeavours directed towards evidence based improvements in patient care and a rich environment for clinical training. It has been a pleasure to witness the enthusiasm of the leaders of our partner NHS Foundation Trusts in working towards this tri-partite mission.

KCL DentistryThere is also much to be learnt from the other cross King’s College London and King’s Health Partners initiatives in, for example, the Diabetes, Endocrinology and Obesity Clinical Academic Group, with a focus on community and primary care, and the influential Mind and Body Programme which rightly emphasises the very close relationship between mental well-being and general health.

I don’t underestimate the difficulties but the prize is surely worth the effort.

How did a microbiologist become the Dean of the biggest Dental Institute in the UK?

By pure chance! I did a third year research project during my first degree in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol which focussed on bacterial metabolism using dental plaque samples as the source of bacteria. I have been in this field pretty much ever since! After a PhD at the Royal College of Surgeons Dental Science Unit, I spent five years at the National Institute of Health in the USA and then came back to a post in the Medical Research Council, all the while working alongside clinical and non-clinical academics in oral health.

I enjoy working with people and so a gradual move into academic leadership positions came naturally to me and when I had the opportunity to become Dean for Dentistry at QMUL I jumped at the chance. Although I had an immensely enjoyably and productive time at QMUL, the move to King’s College London to lead both the Dental Institute and Clinical Academic Group was too good an opportunity to miss.  I hope I can meet the challenges!