The dentist-scientist career pathway in Africa: opportunities and obstacles
Adeola, Henry Ademola
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The future of evidence-based dentistry in developing Africa heavily depends on a sustainable establishment of a vibrant dentist-scientist workforce. A dentist scientist is saddled with the responsibility of carrying out robust cutting edge research projects that are inspired by clinical experience. Currently, there are no pipelines in place to systematically train such dentists, neither are there programs in place to allow trained African dentists choose such a career pathway. A dentist-scientist is a person who studied oral, dental, maxillofacial (or craniofacial) diseases, prevention, and population sciences (obtaining a medical degrees such as bachelor of dental surgery [BDS] or BChD) alone; or in combination with other advanced degrees such as doctor of dental surgery (DDS)/doctor of philosophy (PhD) or BDS/PhD. This situation has resulted in overdependence of African clinical practice on research findings from technologically advanced Western countries and a decline in clinical research capacity building. The career path of a dentist-scientist should involve research along the spectrum of basic biomedical sciences, translational, clinical and public health sciences. There are several factors responsible for the ultra-low count of dentist-scientist in the heterogeneous African communities such as: poor biomedical research infrastructure; lack of funding; absence of structured dentist scientist career pathways; lack of personnel, inter alia. Hence, this review hopes to discuss the opportunities of setting up a dentist-scientist training pathway in Africa (as obtains in most developed world settings), identify opportunities and prospects of developing an African dentist-scientist workforce, and finally discuss the challenges involved.