Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Letter of the Day | Dental students shown cold shoulder in Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2016 | 11:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I found Carolyn Cooper's article in the paper on November 6, 2016 quite informative and interesting. In addition to the valid concerns raised, I also have a concern, as I am left to wonder if the Dental Association of Jamaica (dominated by dentists from the University of Technology) is aware that the University of the West Indies-funded dental school in Trinidad is the only accredited school in our region.

I make this remark because Jamaican students who study there (some on government subsidy) and do one full year supervised internship by a competent senior dentist/lecturer after receiving their degree. They are not allowed to register with them automatically when they return to Jamaica. Yet they can freely register in Trinidad and work - hence quite a large number of nationals have opted not to return. This does not happen to medical doctors, veterinarians, lawyers and engineers trained at the other UWI campuses.

These students, if they try to return home, are asked to sit an American set exam before they are deemed fit to practise in Jamaica. I am not aware of any other sovereign Caribbean state that allow a foreign group to decide which professional can be registered to work within its own borders.

This is gross dereliction of duty by the Dental Association. Are we to assume there are no competent members in this group why they need the foreign man to direct them?

NOT CHEAP

The exam is not cheap either, as they make a fortune off the Jamaicans. The sum of US$2,090 (J$270,000) has to be paid to ADEX (CDCA), the American examiners, and J$20,000 to UTech to use its facility. The students have to find and pay two patients to be present for their exam, plus do all their prep work, including expensive X-rays and subsequent procedures for free.

For a student, in fact anyone, this is a lot of money. Three to four years ago, the then prime minister, along with the then minister of health, Fenton Ferguson, a dentist, had got the Dental Council to drop this unnecessary requirement. Why, and with whose permission in the health ministry (as they normally have a member on the council), was it reinstated.

We are short of well-trained dentists, yet we find every way to block these poor young professionals from returning to work in their land of birth. Is it possible to investigate?