For specialist endodontist Martin Gale, fixing teeth is a career that comes with great job satisfaction.
When dentist Dr Martin Gale decided to specialise in endodontics – the diagnosis and treatment of dental root canals – the University of Melbourne was his top choice.
Why did you choose the University of Melbourne?
I was a general dentist looking for an established quality program to train as a specialist endodontist. At the time, Professor Harold Messer was the Dean of the Melbourne School of Dentistry and lead educator in the Master of Dental Science endodontics program. Both he and the Melbourne program had superlative international reputations, and so I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted.
Tell us about the experience of learning endodontics at the University.
Endodontics was seen by some to be a most difficult field, and those people able to master it are often regarded to be quite remarkable. The program at Melbourne University was the largest and most active in Australia and it was wonderful to be taught by these remarkable teachers. My revelation was that with the university’s effective teaching of good science and clinical technique, then what seemed to be so difficult became doable. This was a relief. Perhaps it was the teaching more than us that was remarkable!
What are some career highlights so far?
This is going to sound mundane, but I actually like fixing people’s teeth! With specialist training and experience, endodontists can work at a high level so we may achieve difficult tasks, which are mostly successful. There is a lot of job satisfaction in this. More of a sustained warm glow than a highlight, but it’s what makes it fun to turn up to work every day.
Lifelong education and teaching are also important to me. I mentor and lecture to other dentists, particularly the younger ones, and belong to several study clubs, including as president of the local Australian Dental Association (ADA) group. I am also on various dental committees which help guide how the future of dentistry may look in the big picture.
Lastly, I also work on my own research project on artificial intelligence for dentistry, which was published last year. In the future I would like to expand this research work, as artificial intelligence is going to disrupt all of dentistry, and all healthcare beyond, perhaps with unintended consequences. It would be great to be contributing to guiding a safe and professional implementation of this new inevitable technology.
What excites you about the future?
The new entrants into dentistry seem to require much higher entrance grades in Australia compared with us older generation. It will be exciting to see what these bright young minds can achieve for the profession.
My other excitement comes from the implementation of more information technology in dentistry. Just about every aspect of dental care is becoming computerised, leading to new possibilities.
What advice do you have for current students?
Any university degree is a hard road to travel, particularly at a postgraduate level. So don’t waste time, hit the ground running from day one of your course, work hard and be clear minded. Don’t just learn by rote. Make the subject your own, with your own perspective, as that makes it interesting and makes you better at it. But do remember to stay curious, think outside the box, and have fun learning. Oh, and do enjoy the wider university life, make friends and try new things. This may be the best time in your life to just be you, without the wider responsibilities of adulthood.
So have a plan, work hard, get good at what you do, but don’t fret too much about exactly which courses you study, and where they will take you. Many jobs today will disappear and be replaced by new roles in the future. In this changing world, a less rigid pathway may offer better survival and more opportunities than you think.