Q&A: Simone Kirby on specialising in dentistry
As part of a series of articles on veterinary specialisms, My Vet Future is talking to vets about their route to specialisation, with the aim of helping vets better understand how they can become specialists.
Name: Simone Kirby Dipl.EVDC PgCert (VetEd) FHEA MRCVS
Job title: Head of dentistry at the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre
1992: Graduated from Freie Universitaet, Berlin (veterinary science degree)
1992-1999: Worked in private small animal practice in the UK
1996: Became a member of the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) and attended first practical dentistry CPD
1999-2001: Residency in veterinary dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania
2003: Became a member of the European Veterinary Dental Society (EVDS)
2004: Diplomate of the European Veterinary Dental College (EVDC)
2014-2017: Lecturer in veterinary dentistry at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC)
2016: Became an RCVS Specialist in veterinary dentistry
2004 – 2018: Worked in private practice as a visiting consultant
2019: Head of dentistry at the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre in Marlow
When did you decide that you wanted to specialise in dentistry?
My career trajectory is an interesting mix of purpose and serendipity: I have always wanted to work in small animal practice, and this plan worked out well. What I had not planned on was becoming a specialist. During my time at vet school, I wasn’t well informed about the option of specialising, particularly the possibility of joining the European Board of Veterinary Specialists (EBVS).
However, during my last clinical year at vet school, I attended a lecture series on veterinary dentistry, held by Peter Fahrenkrug, a dual-qualified veterinarian and dentist. His lectures sparked my interest and I realised that I liked the idea of being both general practitioner and dentist.
I did a dentistry course and soon found my colleagues were pushing the trickier dental cases my way. This served to further my interest and when the opportunity for a residency in veterinary dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania presented itself, I grabbed it.
How long did it take you to become a dentistry specialist?
It took me two years to complete my residency and it felt rushed! Nowadays, a residency is usually three years full-time.
At the European Veterinary Dental College (EVDC), it’s possible to do alternative residencies because of the lack of full-time residence.
"I realised that I liked the idea of being both general practitioner and dentist"
An alternative resident stays in their ‘pre-residency’ place of work (usually private veterinary practice) and spends a specified amount of time with their supervisor, having to fulfil a minimum required case log of cases performed under supervision. Most alternative residents take six years to fulfil all the requirements, even though the official minimum prescribed duration is four years.
At the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), alternative residencies are being phased out, and in the EVDC we are building more full-time residencies, although this takes time.
Since specialising, I have been a member of the credentials committee, chair of the credentials committee, board member and secretary of the EVDC as well as an EBVS-representative.
Can you describe the commitment involved?
Moving to the USA coupled with a pay cut inevitably ate into my savings, but it was worth the investment overall in terms of future job satisfaction. All routes to specialisation involve some form of personal sacrifice.
How do you maintain your specialist status?
As both an EBVS and RCVS recognised specialist, re-certification every five years is required. As a practising specialist, the re-certification requirements are fairly easy to fulfil.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
Working hours are long, particularly because many veterinary dentistry procedures can be long so that we can do as much done as possible in one anaesthesia.
"There definitely needs to be more EVDC or AVDC specialists coming to work in the UK"
In order to protect my work-life balance, I pro-actively build in ‘catch-up time’ during the week for emails, phone-calls, and other admin tasks. There are other demands on a diplomate’s time, such as honorary offices for the college, preparing for presentations and practical course preparation, as well as keeping up with literature and working on publications.
Fitness activities play an important part towards my work-life balance, my osteopath is my hero, and my local crossfit box helped me discover my inner (amateur) athlete!
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a dentistry specialist?
I think there has been a change in attitude towards veterinary dentistry in the past 10 years in the UK, particularly for the demand for this type of referral service. The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre is one of only two multi-speciality referral centres in the UK with a full-time dentistry service. I get the impression that the corporates are also paying attention to this demand and are keen to start their own dentistry services. In order to achieve this, there definitely needs to be more EVDC or AVDC specialists coming to work in the UK.