THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

East of England Deanery

I find myself once again congratulating the East of England Deanery for the excellent organisation skills (thank you to Lizzie Graddage), their leadership team for their vision and the superb annual conference in CenterParcs Elveden Forest, where Raj Rattan and I are lecturing to about 70 VT’s over 2 days. The conference facilities at CenterParc are great – there is free wifi in all common areas and in my hotel room (thank goodness) – the AV systems in The Venue (their conference suite) are first-class and, perhaps most important, wherever I have interacted with CenterParc employees, the customer service has been great. There are even 2 Starbucks on-site! Arrival at the gatehouse and the Lakeview Hotel on Wednesday evening were faultless. The conference and catering staff are clearly “on brand” and last night’s dinner in Bella Italia was made cabaret by Christine, our buxom waitress from Wigan, who supplied a one-women show for a table of 20. Next time I’m shipwrecked, I want to be in Christine’s lifeboat – I can see her now organising community singing and rowing shifts. The greatest pleasure is undoubtedly presenting to 70 young adults who are sponges for what Raj and I have to say. When I first started lecturing at VT conferences about 10 years ago, I would ask on the first morning what sectors of dentistry the delegates were aiming at:

  1. practice ownership

  2. associateship

  3. specialisation

  4. hospital or community service

and way back then, I would expect to see maybe 20% ownership, 20% community/hospital, a few wannabe specialists and the bulk as career associates. How that has changed. Yesterday, across 2 groups of 35, I would say:

  1. 60% practice ownership

  2. 30% career associate

  3. 10% community/hospital

and a handful of specialists. The reason is obvious, if perhaps a little sensitive, and on Thursday we all openly discussed the rise and rise of the Asian community of dental students, many of whom are from an enterprise culture background – and the effect this is having on the overall profile of the profession. I have mentioned this in past newsletters and posts – and have been criticised for stereotyping Asian dental students as the children of newsagents. As usual, I have never said such a thing – but have respectfully pointed out how many have been directed towards a medical qualification by their parents – and have simultaneously grown in a 21st-century British Asian culture that promotes capitalism with a conscience – no bad thing in my opinion. I am inspired by the open-minded, aspirational and funny audience who I entertained all day and who entertained me last evening. How sad that, once again, a topic around the dinner table was 40% of them unable to find work this Autumn – and considering their “back-packing” year as a result. There seems to be a mis-match between independent principals telling me (all over the UK) how desperate they are to find good associates – and VT’s telling me that they cannot get a job and are off to trek around South America or Cambodia? Another day of lecturing today – I love this gig!

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