MAIDS rose up to the challenges in Covid times, helping relieve the dental stress of individuals at a time the nation’s energies were singularly devoted to fighting the pandemic. It has been a valuable lesson going into the future
MAIDS director-principal Dr Sangeeta Talwar with other faculty members; (Photo: Rajwant Rawat)
Anyone who has had a toothache knows that the trauma can be so intense that you cannot take one bite of food or even fall asleep. Yet when Covid raged, getting treated for something seemingly as simple as a toothache became impossible. So when the Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, or MAIDS, in Delhi, opened up teledentistry consultations, the public response was overwhelming. “Our students and teachers have done over 82,000 such consultations, providing much needed relief to patients who couldn’t reach us due to lockdowns or fear of infection,” says Dr Sangeeta Talwar, the director of the institute. MAIDS also pitched in for the country’s Covid effort, setting up a sample collection and a vaccination centre on its campus. “It is important to adapt to challenging times and not be defeated by them,” adds Dr Talwar.
Another such challenge was teaching and practising dentistry online, something the faculty at the institute says they could never have imagined doing before 2020. But MAIDS rose to the occasion and never shut down classes even for a single day during the pandemic. When Covid lockdowns started getting slowly lifted last year, the institute comfortably navigated its students towards a hybrid mode where the teaching was done using online tools and presentations but clinical training was given offline. “You can know everything about teeth, but your hand needs to be steady and precise while doing a procedure or treatment,” says Dr Talwar. “For this, offline training is very important. So, whenever we had the chance, we called in our students, observing all Covid protocols, so that they didn’t have to miss out on this essential part of their training.” MAIDS also encouraged faculty to stay academically active—many funded projects were taken on in association with the CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research), ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) and the department of science and technology. MAIDS faculty members, therefore, published 324 papers over the last year.
With the worst of Covid over, everybody is keen to return to the classroom. There is a lot to look forward to. “We have been busy upgrading infrastructure and opportunities for future exposure,” says Dr Talwar. To begin with, the institute will get a new building, complete with a clinical section and special needs clinic. It will also have a national research centre for oral health and tobacco cessation in collaboration with the ministry of health and family welfare. Last year, it was declared to be the single point of contact in the country for the implementation and advancement of professionals in the field. The World Health Organization predicts that around 29 per cent of all adult Indians will be tobacco users; currently, the country accounts for 70 per cent of the global burden of smokeless tobacco (90 per cent of oral cancers in India are attributed to smokeless tobacco use).
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In this light, the new centre at MAIDS will be a welcome step in a country that needs to upgrade its tobacco cessation effort. “The centre will help spread awareness about the ill effects of tobacco, train dentists and be the centre for oral health research. Students and faculty both are equally excited about this new resource on campus,” says Dr Talwar. Equal anticipation and excitement have attended the announcement of a new faculty-student exchange with Boston University to start from fall this year. It will provide the requisite exposure to various dental practices and learnings, a fundamental part of being at MAIDS. “Learning never stops and it doesn’t come from a single source,” says Dr Talwar. MAIDS observes this dictum in the practice.