Internet Edition

Issue No. 1, March 1997

Student Exchange Programme

Final Year students visit renowned overseas dental schools

The Faculty of Dentistry introduced a Student Exchange programme in the beginning of the academic year 1996/1997. Students who have successfully completed their 3rd Professional BDS examination will be selected on merit for sponsored travel in their final year to an overseas dental school for a period of 2-3 weeks. Other students who are willing to pay for their own travel are welcomed to travel with their classmates on these exchange programmes. Five return air tickets were sponsored by five dental companies for travel to dental schools with which NUS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). They are the :

  1. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  2. Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan
  3. University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

In view of the brevity of space in this newsletter, the exchange visit to Tokyo will be the only destination to be covered in detail. The remaining visits to two other destinations, Sydney and Vancouver are also hihglighted.

Student exchange visit to Tokyo

The experience at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University
(taken from an interview with Mr Chong Kim Cheong)

The 1996 December holidays came and three final year dental students packed their bags and headed for the Land of the Rising Sun. Prior to their visit , the National University of Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, thus facilitating student exchange visits with the aims promoting a better understanding of each other's educational systems and appreciate the native culture. From the 2nd to the 14th of December 1996, Mr Wong Kim Cheong and Mr Philip Woo were in Japan for the visit. Miss Lim Kwek Toh, a classmate, joined the pair a week later on the 9th. The trip was made possible by GC Corporation (for Mr Chong) and Degussa (for Mr Woo).

The Dental School

The exchange visit allowed the three students to familiarise themselves with the dental school and the practice of Dentistry in Japan. The dental school is 11 storeys high. The first 8 floors house the clinical and laboratory areas, and the remaining floors the staff rooms and administrative sections. The dental curriculum in the university spans six years - students spend the first 2 years learning subjects the equivalent of our 'A' levels, the second two years are the pre-clinical years, and the final two years the clinical component. The official hours at the university runs from 9am to 5pm, but the observation is that many staff and students do not keep these guidelines. A strong and vibrant research culture is highly palpable, and many people start early and work late into the night. Research projects are mainly carried out at the postgraduate levels, and is supported by a large pool of manpower. Interestingly, most of these research workers are single males in their 30s without constraints of family and other social demands.

In the restorative department, no amalgam restorations are placed in the mouth. The fear of mercury poisoning at Tokyo bay many years before still haunts the psyche of many Japanese. Gold restorations, composite resins and glass ionomer cements are the common materials used.

Other Site Visits

Besides visiting the dental school, the trio visited Quintessence Japan and met with Mr Sasaki, the owner of Quintessence Japan. They also had the privilege of visiting the orthodontic practice of Dr Nakajima, who is the co-founder of the Asian-Pacific Dental Student's Association. Orthodontic treatment is expensive , averaging S$10000 per case. An observation was that the most common form of malocclusion seen were buccally displaced maxillary canines, the same type that you can identify with Japanese teen pop female singers.

Plus and Minuses

Getting around the city is difficult, not for the lack of transport, but for the want of the Japanese language. Most of the traffic and road signs are in Japanese. Tokyo has a rail and land transport system; it may seem extremely confusing, but the locals know the system at the back of their hand. The rail system is extremely efficient, and the carriages arrive on the appointed time - something our MRT can emulate. The Japanese people whom they met were very courteous and extremely helpful.

If you think the cost of living in Singapore is high, think again! In Tokyo, the cost of an ordinary meal (I'm not talking about a restaurant meal) is about S$10. Clothes and accessories are expensive. And if you are allergic to cigarette smoke, do bring a gas mask with you the next time you travel to Japan. Many Japanese love to smoke and booze - just a reminder not to light a fire in front of them. Wondered if they have legends of fire-breathing businessman!

Memories are made of these…

Gwek Tok, Philip and Kim Cheong having a great time with their Japanese Hosts

Overall, the trip to Japan has been both an enriching and enjoyable experience. More importantly, it has created new friendships and connections. It had been one eventful trip, and for Kim Cheong, Philip and Kwek Toh, it sure beats staying in Singapore, at least for a few days.

Student Exchange visit to Sydney

Five final year dental students paid a visit to the United Dental Hospital and the Westmead Hospital in Sydney during the term holidays in September 1996. For a few of them, it was their first visit to the Land Down under. Judging from the photographs, one can only say that they had a good time sightseeing and learning about the Aussie culture.

Posing at the doors of UDH

Student Exchange visit to Vancouver

Vancouver was once voted the best city on to live on Earth. For Singaporeans who have visited Vancouver, their sentiments, I suspect, echo a wish to live in this city of fine weather, bustling commerce, and great lifestyle. This city also houses one of the top universities in dental research, the University of British Columbia, whose campus views include the Pacific Ocean. Across the university campus is the district of West Vancouver which is the gateway to many of the outdoor wilderness in BC, such as Grouse Mountain, and Whistler.

Two final year dental students, Mr Ho Kok Sen and Mr Wong Keng Mun had the enviable privilege of visiting the Dental School. Featured below are some of their memories of the visit.

Keng Mun and Kok Sen with Research Fellow from UBC

Note of thanks: The Faculty of Dentistry wishes to express its gratitude to the following companies whose generous sponsorship have made the student exchanges possible: Degussa, GC Corporation, Dentsply and KaVo.

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