Dentists take their place on world's first Oral Cancer research degree
The inaugural cohort of dentists have taken their places on the University of Dundee's MRes Oral Cancer programme, the world's first postgraduate research degree to focus exclusively on the disease.
Working alongside internationally renowned scientists and clinicians, the group of international students will develop a sound understanding fundamental and applied cancer biology, and the aetiology, diagnosis and management of oral cancer. They will also gain valuable experience in designing and executing a robust laboratory-focused molecular oncology research project.
The MRes Oral Cancer not only delivers a challenging professional education and research training programme but also provides the foundation for a marked impact on health outcomes. The 12-month course will prepare the young dentists for high-impact clinical academic research, according to programme leader Dr Sam Crouch.
'This Masters degree has a substantial taught component in the first semester,' she said. 'Then for the rest of the year, following a series of practical classes and a literature review, the focus is on research.'
Rates of oral cancer are increasing across the world, with some 125,000 people dying of the disease each year. Around 75 per cent of oral cancers are linked to modifiable behaviour such as oral hygiene, diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Low public awareness of the disease significantly impacts upon survival rates, as cancers of the mouth can be detected at an early, highly survivable stage through a simple examination
For the students, the MRes Oral Cancer programme gives them the opportunity to focus on a discipline where demand for expertise in their home countries far exceeds the availability of qualified specialists. Also, having faced populations with lifestyles that impair oral hygiene, plus a widespread reluctance to have visible changes in the mouth treated early, all four are passionate about the need to make an impact on health and wellbeing on their return to their home countries.
'My Professor was my inspiration,' says Navin Suresh Babu, who practiced as a dentist in Chennai, southern India, for two years before coming to Dundee. 'When it comes to oral cancer, India has many patients but little expertise in research. So we looked around to see how I could get really good training for this field, and we found that this is the only Masters course of its type in the world.'
Hatem Amer, an Oral and Maxillofacial pathologist from Cairo in Egypt said he was worried about the lack of oral cancer specialists in his country and the slow time it takes for people to move through the healthcare system. 'What can start out as a simple operative case, is often too late by the time he or she is admitted to hospital. People regard the diagnosis as a death sentence.'