Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Ashfan Mirza

My experience at UCL confirmed it is never too late to change direction in life.  When I graduated from dental school, over 15 years ago, it was not in my career plan to study Dental Public Health.  And yet, in 2019, I enrolled onto the UCL Dental Public Health programme with great enthusiasm and expectations.  Good oral health is a fundamental right, however, working as a general dental practitioner, I became increasingly aware of stark inequalities in oral health.  Dental disease is largely preventable, however, I continue to see children and adults with high disease burden, mostly from disadvantaged groups.  It was this sense of injustice and need for improvement that led me to the UCL Dental Public Health programme.

At UCL, oral health inequalities are a strong component of the Dental Public Health programme.  The programme looks beyond individual dental behaviours and considers broader factors that influence oral health.  Prior to the course, I had not considered the wider social determinants of health and as a result, I have developed a different perspective towards oral health in my daily dental practice.  The Dental Public Health course explores population based strategies to promote oral health and considers broader, evidence based policies to support healthier choices. 

There were several other reasons why I chose to study Dental Public Health at UCL.  UCL is a world class institution with renowned lecturers and experts in their field.  The course content is excellent and covers a wide range of dental and research modules, promoting a blend of theoretical and practical knowledge. The course modules flow in a logical order and provides an excellent foundation of knowledge, which is called upon for the final dissertation project. I re-entered academia after an extensive gap, however I was not deterred by this, and quickly learnt that organisation and time management skills were key elements of successful learning.  The lecturers were immensely supportive and helpful throughout the whole course, and no question seemed trivial or unimportant.  By the end of the course you develop a broad and varied skill set which can open the door to a number of learning and career opportunities.

The Dental Public Health programme is not a didactic, lecture led learning programme.  The programme promotes philosophical discussion and debate.  Students are encouraged to share view points and ideas, making the learning environment extremely interesting, stimulating and enjoyable.  The course encourages students to develop strong analytical and critical thinking skills, to think independently and formulate new ideas.  Having completed the Dental Public Health programme, I look back, and am astounded by the new skills and knowledge I have developed over the past year.  I will continue to work in general dental practice, however, the Dental Public Health course has ignited a strong interest in research and development.  For myself, the Dental Public Health programme at UCL has been inspiring, thought provoking and career changing.  So, what are you waiting for?