Teamwork and talent

Dentistry team photo
From left to right: Dr. Joe Armstrong, Patience Chipperfield, Mary-Elizabeth Jones, Joe Serodio, Kim Jacques, Karen Willis, Mary Lou Gough, Anessa Kadri, Dr. Christopher Harle

The team behind the Dentistry Surgical Care Unit is providing high-quality care to patients in the London community

By Emily Leighton, MA’13

Dentistry surgeryFriday is Dr. Joe Armstrong’s favourite day of the week. Not for the excitement of the approaching weekend, but because Friday is OR day in the Dentistry Surgical Care Unit (DSCU).

“It’s the high point of my week,” said Dr. Armstrong, director of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery program at Schulich Dentistry. “Everyone on the DSCU team looks forward to getting out of bed on Friday mornings.”

Operating as an outpatient day-surgery unit, the DSCU enables the provision of oral surgery and a wide spectrum of dental procedures. It features two state-of-the-art operating rooms, six recovery bays and a nursing station. 

The Unit is a freestanding operating facility – it does not exist within the walls of a hospital – which makes it unique among Canadian dental schools.

The Unit was the result of a special collaboration between Schulich Dentistry and the Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Medicine. “We’ve worked together in the planning and design, equipment selection and clinical methods,” explained Dr. Armstrong. “It’s a multidisciplinary approach and environment.”

“It’s important to look at the Unit as a community resource. Our patients are the people of London and Southwestern Ontario, and this clinical service is for everyone to utilize.” —Dr. Joe Armstrong

The strong partnership is paying off – staff members are performing highly efficient procedures with low complication rates. The Unit also marked a significant milestone this past summer – 100 successful patient cases.

Mary Lou Gough, the Unit’s charge nurse and operational manager, attributes the success to the team of people who come together every Friday morning and consistently deliver high-quality care. “I’m very proud of the team we’ve built,” she said. “There’s a huge amount of expertise and it’s a very positive, friendly culture.”

Dr. Armstrong agrees, emphasizing a shared commitment to excellence. “Our approach is completely based around excellence in patient care and patient safety,” he said.

Dentistry surgical care unitThe Unit is currently staffed by a team of nine, including dental surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses, dental assistants and other allied health professionals.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to be a part of this project and see it succeed,” said Dr. Christopher Harle, assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesia & Perioperative Medicine, who was instrumental in planning and development from the Unit’s inception. “I think we’re all emotionally invested, having put in a lot of time, effort and interest.”

The DSCU currently accepts healthy adult patients, but will be phasing in paediatric cases in early 2017. At full capacity, it can accommodate up to 60 patients per week, and plans include extending care to geriatric and special needs patients.

By expanding the scope of clinical care offered at Schulich Dentistry, the Unit is a key player in making specialty dental services more accessible in the London region.

“It’s important to look at the Unit as a community resource,” said Dr. Armstrong. “Our patients are the people of London and Southwestern Ontario, and this clinical service is for everyone to utilize.”

In addition to patient access, the DSCU will also enhance clinical learning experiences for Schulich Medicine & Dentistry students and residents.

“The Unit provides an ideal interdisciplinary learning environment for students to learn minor surgical procedures, through observation and controlled teaching moments,” explained Dr. Armstrong.

The combination of patient care, community impact and education is key to Schulich Dentistry’s future. “The goal is to be a top 10 dental school in North America, and the Unit’s successes will be a big contributor to that,” said Gough.