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Introducing our Clinical Fellow, Elizabeth Gonzales Malaga

08 October, 2021 by Elizabeth Gonzales Malaga
Introducing our Clinical Fellow, Elizabeth Gonzales Malaga

It’s really positive when a Clinical Fellow joins our Strategy Directorate for a year. It’s an opportunity for us to involve a dental professional who has experience of clinical practice in our work, and to understand the GDC’s role from their perspective. We asked our new Clinical Fellow, Elizabeth Gonzalez Malaga, to share a little about her background, why she wanted to join the GDC and what she wants to get out of her time with us in the next 12 months.

Here’s what Elizabeth had to say.

How would you describe your dentistry career and background?

I studied and qualified in Madrid, Spain and then moved to the UK working in different settings all over including general dental practice in Blackburn, and community dental services in the Shetland Islands, Great Yarmouth, Northamptonshire and Leicester.

Most of my career has been in community dental services working with children and adults with disabilities. However, in 2013 I did a dental core training rotation in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery which I think was crucial because of the skills it taught me, beyond just clinical skills, such as prioritisation of tasks and time management, resilience, and awareness of your own abilities and limits. 

While completing my first year of specialty training in Special Care Dentistry, I did a Clinical Senate Fellowship that gave me a further insight about how commissioners and stakeholders make decisions about healthcare for their local populations. 

Most recently, I have done an honorary (unpaid) collaboration with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer working on Integrated Care Systems. Currently as well as doing my Clinical Fellowship, I am a committee member for NICE guidelines and an assembly member of the East Midlands Clinical Senate.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Being awarded with a Special Care Dentistry MSc (Eastman Dental Institute, UCL) and successfully completing my specialty training in Special Care Dentistry were the greatest achievements within my professional life. However, working in the Special Care Dentistry field brings daily highlights: from providing a dental examination to a person with severe learning disabilities who required months of desensitisation, to organising a multidisciplinary general anaesthetic for someone with complex needs.

What next? My contribution to the recognition of oral health as part of general health!

Why did you want to join GDC as our Clinical Fellow?

I wanted to challenge myself to know more about the role of the regulator and explore the myths about the GDC. As a busy dental professional I didn’t have the time or need to properly understand the GDC’s role and remit. I heard a lot about the GDC’s reputation from colleagues, and I did get some comments about moving to the ‘dark side’ when I took this fellowship!

What are you hoping to get from this role?

I’ve worked in general practice and in a number of NHS Trusts and they were very different in terms of the information available to the dental team to understand things like responsibilities, standards and changes to guidance.

I also want to learn more about regulation in healthcare in the UK. I’ve worked alongside other healthcare professionals, and I’d like to know more about the different regulatory requirements that affect them. 

I’d also like to get involved in working with stakeholders who consult and collaborate (and sometimes disagree!) with the GDC regarding policy and strategy.

What’s been your experience of working at the GDC so far? 

People are very friendly and helpful which is really appreciated because I’m not used to working in an office environment, so the IT and ways of working are very new to me.

It’s been a little overwhelming – there’s so much to learn and meeting people remotely via a screen has been a challenge. But every time I hear something that I didn’t know about the GDC’s role, it makes me want to find out more!

What GDC work are you looking forward to being involved with?

I’m going to be involved in the GDC’s work on seriousness. The concept of seriousness in fitness to practise cases is a research project commissioned by the General Dental Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The researchers from the University of Plymouth are investigating how ‘seriousness’ in Fitness to Practice (FtP) cases is understood, conceptualised and applied by health professions regulators.

I’m also looking forward to being part of the work on professionalism where the GDC has led on a comprehensive study across dentistry and healthcare. I’m really interested in this because it’s quite hard to define and very dependent on context, which will make it a good challenge to get right! I’ve had lots of conversations with dental teams about what professionalism means, so this is an opportunity to explore it from the perspective of regulation and understand different views from the professions.

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