More than just a Common Room
It’s approaching June and what will officially be the move to the ‘new’ Adelaide Dental Hospital (ADH). Dentistry at the University of Adelaide will be structurally integrated into the West End precinct as part of the Adelaide Medical and Nursing School. Those in the ‘current’ ADH will have experienced their last opportunities to take in the atmosphere of a structure that has been the soul of dental education in South Australia for almost half a century. An atmosphere that has been surrounded by asbestos, a history of positive and… less positive educators and public dental service that spans a whole spectrum of wonderfully colourful patients. To the astute reader wondering why I have apostrophised ‘new’ and ‘current’, you will soon note that the ADH has undergone several revisions, upgrades and reconstructions over more than a century of history.
The dental science program (as it was known then) clinics began in the 1880s at was then the ‘old’ exhibition building present on Frome Road. Back then class sizes were in the single digits and there were years where there were zero graduates, not to mention only males. AUDSS was formed in 1919 and some four years later the ‘pre-modern’ era of dentistry began in 1923 with the construction of the ‘old’ ADH. Back then there was a student Common Room on the 1st floor. In the early 60s, North and South wing extensions were created to expand the ‘old’ ADH, however after political pressure and logistical downfalls, funding was found to construct the ‘current’ seven-storey ADH in 1969. Even in the 60s and 70s, the building facilitated about 40-50 students per year and was constructed as the dental department extension of the RAH, hence its dependent power and gas supply. The Common Room (student dedicated basement area) was built-in back then (a rudimentary version of what we see today), and alas this Final Basement Party will mark its 48th and final year! In that era, the nurses’ lockers and common area was separated from the students to prevent any unruly behaviour; Level 3 comprised of predominantly student labs (twice the size of what we consider the ‘old’ labs that predated current cohorts); SADS and School staff shared Level 4 with the Orthodontics department, 5th and 6th Floors held microbiology and anthropology research and the lecture theatres that are still there (although chairs and desks have been ‘upgraded’). As you can see, fundamentally, not much has changed in almost 50 years.
The move to the ‘new’ ADH will arguably signal the single greatest change to dental education in South Australia for over a century. The climate in which the plans for the integrated ‘new’ ADH rose is shrouded at best, however it is here to stay, so the question that arises is what now? Will it be a smooth transition? One could argue the question itself is fallacious. As part of the AUDSS we have voiced our concerns including, but not limited to: locker space, bike space, parking, student common room, transit to and from lectures/labs, importance of high quality internationally recognised teaching staff and research. We are continually representing the University’s number one client (domestic or international, you!), but like a wave shaping a continent, although we know we have made an impact, sometimes it is not as large as we had hoped. Upon applying for the position as President last year, I had hoped that by this time next year (this coming October), I could promise you that there will be a new Common Room for dental students, BDS and BOH alike. Although we have pressed the matter and have the full support of the School of Dentistry, it is difficult to foresee what our options are from a Faculty perspective. There is no space in the West End precinct. We are pushing for a Common Room adjacent to the Simulation Clinic, however there are also talks of redeveloping Medical School North as a student hub. Either way, it is unlikely that we will have an answer this year – although Emma and I will continue in our efforts of erosion!
The Common Room has been a space that has highlighted dental unity. From basement parties that used to have no capacity limits to the more restrictive contemporary policies, it has been a space for dental lunch discussion (healthy whining?), health awareness sessions, honour boards, birthdays, introductions, meetings, friendships, relationships, free food, alcohol and many a sticky floor. Where to now? Like any species, with change, we must adapt, evolve or…perish. The new West End facility provides new opportunities in increasing collaborations between dental, nursing and medical students; research facilities will be predominantly a floor away, SAHMRI adjacent and combined with ‘new’ RAH it will constitute a medical hub. The University promises that it will be a hive of activity; hopefully we produce manuka honey. In response, we have begun organising an event between the health disciplines to commemorate such. I recommend everyone making the most of the new facilities and being proactive with protocols, systems and their patients and tutors. Year representatives should start getting in touch with their respective coordinators in regards to lectures and tutorials and how they will fit in with the timelines of clinic and moving to and fro.
It is with sadness that we mark the end of the ‘Basement’ era, however it becomes even more impediment for the AUDSS and students to engage with their year levels; make the most of the time spent, because as many final years realise, it all comes to an end swiftly. As President and a dental student, who has seen the dental student body as a family of support and to support, I promise to continue adapting the AUDSS to the needs and desires of members, and make your experience this year the best yet!
President of the AUDSS