Every year, the British Society of Prosthodontics (BSSPD) holds a national competition that is open to undergraduate dental students from any UK dental school.
The prize is officially known as the Kulzer-Heraeus Undergraduate Prize.
Here is a short excerpt from their website describing the prize:
This award is made for the best critical review received by BSSPD, on a subject of the applicants choosing, related to Prosthodontics. The prize takes the form of a monetary award of £250 together with a certificate. The recipient of the award will be invited to the BSSPD Annual Conference as a guest of the society.
This year, I decided to make a submission and try to win it. It is the first time I have ever attempted this and I was totally shocked when they emailed me to let me know that I was selected as the winner! What a great feeling. I honestly did not have any expectations to win, nor was I very confident that my essay would be good enough to win. The first person I called to share the news with was my darling mum, of course, who was over the moon!
It was such a delight for me since I am incredibly passionate about prosthodontics and it is one of my favourite areas within dentistry. I know it is still very early in my dental career to be making claims like this, but I can see myself potentially choosing to do further speciality training in prosthodontics (or restorative dentistry in general) so to be able to win the BSSPD award was an extra boost of motivation. The prospect of becoming a prosthodontist or a consultant in restorative dentistry gets me excited!
What I loved about the competition criteria is that there was no set topic area or specific essay title for all applicants. This meant I was able to select any topic of my choosing to serve as the focus of my essay – as long as the essay related to prosthodontics in some way. I decided to research and write about digital intra-oral scanning as the modern alternative to conventional impressions. Digital dentistry is the future, but unfortunately, we have very limited exposure to digital dental technologies through the undergraduate dental curriculum, so I took it upon myself to expand my own knowledge through this competition. So many dentists are beginning to embrace digital dentistry and I know for sure that I want to be one of those dentists!
The essay needed to be a critical literature review. That meant that I was expected to review all the published research on my chosen topic and formulate a review that was critical of all the current evidence. I decided to be more critical by making direct comparisons between the digital systems and conventional impression methods. I think this is important to highlight because I would not be surprised if some other students entering the competition may have overlooked this subtle detail in the essay format. Any literature review needs to include many references since you are summarising the literature (the whole point of a review), so it is also very important to properly cite your essay – this means that doing extensive research into your chosen topic before you begin to write is crucial. My literature review included 60 references (cited using the Harvard style).
Because I am such a dork and love learning more about dentistry, this essay was a pleasure to write. I found it fascinating researching how effective digital scanning can be and how it is a great alternative to old-school, gooey impressions. In prosthodontics, impressions are taken all the time so these digital scanners are making huge changes for the better to the prostho work-flow. My research made me incredibly excited at the prospect to use digital systems in my future practising career, and, based on how effective and beneficial digital workflows are it is only a matter of time before the dental UG curriculum changes to include more digital teaching for dental students. It was so interesting to find out how digital impressions can be just as accurate as conventional impressions, and they are getting more accurate all the time.
Another great detail with this competition is the fact that there was no set word limit. Most other competitions have a defined maximum word limit, and, whilst this has its benefits it also restricts you. You can definitely tell if you’ve read my blog articles or even my captions on Instagram that I am always one to write long posts – so for me, the open word limit was a blessing. I always hate having to force myself to stick to a word count, because I find it causes me to skip over important details and fail to completely cover a topic. My submission ended up being close to 9000 words long!
The submission deadline was Christmas Eve (24th December) and I had decided to start working on my submission earlier that month – so I only had a couple weeks’ to prepare my entry essay. At the time, I was also President of the Dental School, a huge role that constantly kept me incredibly busy – so I had very little free time when I was able to work on my essay. Nevertheless, I made time on weekends to do research into my chosen essay title and would do a little bit of work on the essay as often as I could. The good thing about this deadline is that it is usually a time of year where students will have a few weeks’ away from dental school for their Christmas break, but it also means most students will be away on holiday or keen to spend time with family and friends doing anything but thinking about dentistry!
I remember finishing my essay one evening in mid-December 2017, it was around 3:30am. My family were all fast asleep and I was working in the dark furiously proofreading my essay and typing up my conclusion. I finally felt content that I had completed it, so I quit the Microsoft Word programme and shut my laptop to get some much-needed sleep. Then I woke up the next day, sometime in the early afternoon, then after having some breakfast and a large strong coffee I opened up my laptop only to find that I had failed to save my finished essay and had lost the last 4000 words!!!! There was no way I was able to retrieve what was lost. I’d forgotten to save the document before closing it – my silly mistake. I couldn’t believe it! All that hard work and time ‘wasted’ – I was tempted to give up and just not enter the competition after my blunder. Almost half of my essay had been lost. Was it worth rewriting…?! It would take me at least one extra full day to rewrite it, and I wasn’t sure that I could commit to that again without going crazy? But, not being one to give up I forced myself to get it redone. A whole day later, I had finished it again. The truth is, my second write up was a little worse than the first, I knew it wasn’t written as well the second time but I didn’t want to spend any more time working on it. So, I proof-read it one final time then sent off my submission. It was done.
Around two months later, sometime in February, I received an email to congratulate me on being selected as the 2018 winner. So much time had elapsed since my submission, and with Presidency keeping me extra-busy, I had completely forgotten about the competition – pleasant surprise! Hard work and dedication pays off. Persevere, make small sacrifices and you will hopefully achieve the same great results.
I can’t imagine too many dental students around the UK actually enter these competitions. So, your chances of winning are pretty good! Go for it – I wish you all the best.
Don’t be afraid to ask tutors at your dental school for support or advice. If you are considering making an entry, why not get in touch with a prosthodontist tutor and ask them what topics they might recommend. I am sure they would also be more than happy to proofread your essay and give you their honest feedback on it. I didn’t do this, but I could have, and probably should have. Your tutors are there to help you and I am sure they will be impressed by you for going above and beyond, taking your learning into your own hands and expanding your knowledge base in their area of expertise. Getting tutor support will definitely increase your chances of writing a high-quality essay that will have increased chances of success.
The financial reward was also amazing. As the award recipient, I was invited to the annual BSSPD Conference, which took place in Liverpool and they had a cheque for £250 for me. They paid for me to travel there by train and also paid for me to stay in a very nice hotel in the City Centre. I was unable to attend both days of the conference unfortunately as I had a paediatric clinic on Friday morning and it was my Dental Dinner on the Friday evening, so I only went for the Thursday and it was a great experience – I learnt a lot more by attending the conference and met some great people. I was the only undergraduate dental student there through – the conference is mainly for restorative dentists and prosthodontists, of course.
I used the £250 to help me buy a brand new iPad – which was a lovely way to spend the money and a nice new device to own. The iPad I was able to afford with this prize money has actually helped improve my student learning experience – I will be preparing a blog post about iPads for dental school soon. Watch this space.
The other awesome benefit of winning this award is that I can now add it to my CV – hopefully, it will look good on my resumé, helping me to get secure great jobs in my early career. I am a national award winner now – that’s pretty cool.
I have deliberately not spoken much about my essay, because I plan to create a dedicated educational post for dental students to read where I discuss these digital scanning systems, discussing all their advantages and disadvantages relative to the conventional impression systems we know and use at dental school. Coming soon!
Who will succeed me as the 2019 winner?! I would encourage you all to consider entering the competition by writing your own essay for submission. If you don’t compete, you cannot win! Hopefully this post has inspired you to go for it – there is not much committment or a lot of time needed, and the potential result is awesome.
If you want to know anything else from me about this, feel free to drop me an email! I am always happy to help.