Healthcare Education and Dental Public Health a Priority for Academic
Research conducted by UKZN Dentistry Lecturer, Mr Tufayl Muslim, is a reflection of his passion for dental public health and healthcare education.
Muslim, who presented three studies at the 2014 College of Health Sciences Research Symposium, won R30 000 towards attending an international conference.
A doctoral candidate, he believes his students should be instilled with an understanding that they have been equipped with the necessary tools to use in the upliftment of their communities.
‘Students also need to be aware of the need for constant and continuous improvement of their knowledge and skills in order to become the best clinicians and researchers that they can be,’ he said.
As a Dental Therapist and an Educator, Muslim identified a need to ensure that his students be imbibed with a sense of responsibility towards the community. He said both the student and the community benefited through enhanced and improved service learning, and the aim was that ‘the spirit and desire of wanting to serve the community continues to be kindled in students even after they have graduated’.
This is what led him to conduct his award-winning study titled: “Final-year Dental Therapy Students’ Perceptions of their Service-Learning Experience at a Selected University”.
Participants in the study reported an increased sense of social responsibility, and an increased understanding of the populations that they would serve after qualifying. Students were adequately prepared (academically and clinically) to undertake the service learning experience (SLE) and were aware of what was expected of them in terms of learning outcomes and service delivery. Additionally it was found that students were adequately supported in terms of clinical services rendered, and food and accommodation.
The results indicated that certain improvements needed to be addressed in order to improve the students’ SLE, and contribute to the optimisation of the learning environment.
Muslim felt researching the factors which hindered and promoted students experiences in service learning had the potential to ensure continuous and incremental quality improvement and assurance in healthcare education.
‘Being a health care practitioner and an educator I have a dual passion – health care education and dental public health. Additionally, I have a keen interest in medical ethics and jurisprudence. My research areas thus tend to focus on healthcare policies that can lead to improvements in dental public health, and in healthcare education improvement strategies and interventions.’
His most recent studies have ranged from health education practices (service-learning) to cross-national oral health policy studies that were aimed at improving oral health delivery and population status, leading to lessons that could be learnt from developing and developed countries and applied cross-nationally.
Supervised by Academic Leader of Dentistry, Dr Shenuka Singh, Muslim also presented a paper at the research symposium that investigated the use of Systems Dynamic Modelling theory and application in future oral healthcare worker provision in order to forecast adequate and appropriate numbers of oral healthcare workers at the symposium.
‘Dr Singh is one of very few Oral Hygienists who hold a doctorate, and her outstanding supervision skills have made my PhD journey a more bearable one.
‘UKZN has an excellent research ethic, and with support of people such as the former Dean of the School of Health Sciences, the Dean of Research, and staff of the Dentistry Discipline, teaching and researching at UKZN has become a pleasure.’
Muslim submitted his PhD for examination at the end of 2014 and is awaiting results.
As the first graduate in his family, he acknowledged the value of education, and said he understood that any challenges one faced in the pursuit of education should merely serve to strengthen one’s resolve to succeed.