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Crowning glory: University of Hong Kong’s dental school ranked world’s No 1

Crowning glory: University of Hong Kong’s dental school ranked world’s No 1

Originally published at the South China Morning Post on March 22, 2016.

The University of Hong Kong’s dental school has been ranked No 1 in the world and now plans to expand by 40 per cent over the next six years to tackle a shortage of dentists in the city.

In this year’s QS World Universities Rankings by Subject, the faculty overhauled the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, which ranked first last year.

Last year there were about 120,000 patient visits to the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, where its faculty is located – a number that is expected to grow.

“With the increased number of undergraduate students, we are expecting a proportionate increase in patients seen by our undergraduate students. In our clinics, dental education is very hands on,” said Thomas Flemmig, dean of the dentistry faculty.

To accommodate the increase in students, faculty and patients, four smaller clinics within the hospital will be combined into two large clinics. The first phase of the project will begin construction this summer and has an estimated budget of HK$50 million.

The city has long suffered from a shortage of dentists. There are 2,175 dentists serving approximately seven million people, down from last year’s approximately 2,300, according to the Dental Council. Department of Health statistics show that there were about 32 dentists per 100,000 people in 2015 – a number that Flemmig says lags behind that of other developed countries.

He attributed the shortage to the number of student slots allocated by the government, as well as the slow pace of the licensing process for non-local dentists.

“In Hong Kong, most colleagues work 12 hours a day, six days a week. This clearly shows that there is a high demand [for dentists],” Flemmig said. “The government has indicated that it wants to offer licensing examinations for non-local dentists more frequently.

“Additional measures may include [providing] educational programmes to non-local dentists to better prepare them for the HK licensing exams. That may improve the currently rather low passing rates.”

Despite the faculty’s rising reputation, it has weathered controversies in recent years. The Post reported that its hospital used contaminated water for patients to rinse their mouths from February to June 2014.

The faculty has since upgraded its safety measures and established a risk management protocol to deal with “adverse events”, Flemmig said.

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