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Foundation Years - Joanna Christou

Post date: 07/08/2015 | Time to read article: 5 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018


In this section we focus on the different types of dentistry and speak to dentists who have chosen to follow alternative career paths. In this article we focus on Foundation Year 1 as a dentist written by Joanna Christou.

Joanna is currently studying as a foundation year 1 doctor. If you would like to contact Joanna, her email address can be found at the bottom of the page.

Why did you go into dentistry?

I had a natural flare for sciences at school and was clear in my mind that I wanted a vocational qualification as opposed to a basic science degree. After much deliberation I narrowed my decision to dentistry, medicine and optometry. Dentistry was the natural choice given the unique combination of human science, creative/practical aspects and potential business opportunities.

Where and why did you decide the advanced training that you undertook?

Following completion of the dental foundation training, I pursued hospital-based specialities with a view to expanding and refining my skills. I entered the world of oral and maxillofacial surgery which I thoroughly enjoyed and subsequently undertook a further year in hospital dentistry in the speciality of oral medicine. Applying for medical school seemed to be a logical decision at this point given my love for both of these specialities which required dual-qualification. I worked hard towards gaining a place at Barts and the London Medical School three-year accelerated programme. During my time at medical school I continued to work within both oral medicine and oral and maxillofacial surgery taking classes during the day and working on-call shifts over the weekends and sometimes overnight.

Why did you think you were accepted?

Making yourself an attractive candidate when applying to medical school is tough as everyone has almost entirely identical curriculum vitaes. The minimum expectation to apply includes the BDS, MJDF RCS or equivalent, audits, publications and proof of commitment to your intended specialty through attendance at conference and professional affiliations. Additional strength to your application is achieved by obtaining prizes during the BDS, showing extra activities towards confirming your chosen specialty and maintaining a log book throughout the hospital jobs to evidence your maturity in taking the next step in becoming an undergraduate student again. The key to gaining an interview lies in the personal statement (or cover letter in some cases) which should be used to promote yourself and emphasis your commitment to this challenging training pathway. Those who go on to succeed in interview generally have a clear plan of action including ideas for financing the degree, and can demonstrate a genuine enthusiasm for studying the medical degree. Remember- it is challenging to go back to the undergraduate level and offers will only be made to those who are truly committed and can demonstrate maturity in their decision-making process. 

What active steps did you take before applying for your post-graduate programme?

I spent a significant amount of time discussing this decision with colleagues who had been through the process. I wanted to gain a rational understanding of the pros and cons of this life changing decision. This is an important aspect of the process as if you can crystallise your intentions before writing your applications, then you will come across with more clarity and focus. Aside from this, the obvious accumulation of publications, presentations, audits, developing your teaching skills, meeting with key people in the field to get your name out there, and maintaining a log book of your clinical activity are all necessary.

What part of your training did you find most rewarding?

Studying medicine as a mature student is a real privilege. As a post-graduate student you learn more quickly, and generally are more capable in carrying out the tasks set by medical school with greater ease. In addition, your life experience thus far and previous professional background enables you to maintain a healthier balance of study, work and play.

What part of your training did you find least rewarding?

There will many occasions where you question your decision to return to medical school; when you are simultaneously doing an on call shift at work, have an impending exam for which you are yet to study, trying to squeeze in time to write that presentation for a conference the following weekend and a friends birthday party you simply cannot miss, you will wonder if the hassle is worth it all! It is hard work- but you quickly become great at keeping lots of plates spinning.

Where do you work now?

I am currently undertaking my foundation year 1 training in general medicine (endocrinology), acute adult psychiatry and accident & emergency at a district general hospital.

Can you run through your working week?

This will vary considerably with the jobs you take in your foundation year training. But the overarching responsibilities lie with ward cover, on-call rotas, attending weekly teaching sessions or departmental meetings etc. There will be an expectation of your to present at local meetings and carry out an audit for the Trust for whom you work. In my current role as an FY1 in acute adult psychiatry, I attend to the care of in-patients detained under the Mental Health Act including assessing their mental state, assessing capacity, prescribing rapid tranquilization and long term stabilising medications, and managing their physical health during their admission

What part of your work now do you find most and least rewarding?

I enjoy all aspects of medicine and surgery but it is frustrating knowing that my current position is not my desired end point and I still have to remain focused towards my goal. Many people who dual-qualify actually finish up specialising in something different to what they had originally planned.  

What equipment could you not do without?

Comfortable shoes and my diary to help me balance work, rest and play!

Who has inspired you within dentistry?

I couldn't name one person in particular but there a bunch of people who I have had the privilege of meeting and some of them are now my good friends, who are dedicated to excellence and strive to provide an unprecedented level of patient care. 

Whom or what inspires you in general/ outside of dentistry?

My parents inspired me to always achieve my best; they gave me unreserved support throughout my training and continue to encourage me in my choices.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

I don't have a favourite destination. In the last couple of years I have been to some of the most perfect beaches in the world in Indonesia/Bali, walked up the Atlas Mountains and ate copious tagine in Marrakech, saw the Big Buddha in Hong Kong, saw the Northern Lights (barely) from Iceland, skied in the French Alps, and travelled in the United States of America including Boston, New York and San Antonio. I loved it all! I love travelling, gaining new experiences and seeing different cultures and trying new cuisines across the world. 

What makes you happy?

Eating dinner out with friends. I want to eat at every restaurant in London! 

If you were something else in the dental field what would you be?

I would strongly pursue the business side of healthcare to own dental practices.  

If you weren't in the dental field what would you be?

I would do an MBA and work in the financial sector. 

What advice would you give young dentists going into your field? 

Undertaking the medical degree following dentistry is challenging and rewarding. There will be times when you regret your choice, especially when all your friends who graduated from dental school the same time as you and stayed in general practice suddenly start earning shed loads of money compared to you (the money comes a bit later down the line)! Equally, there will be times where you just couldn't see yourself doing anything else. It gives you a unique opportunity for self-development, and you will become a well-rounded clinician.

Who am I? 

Qualifications: BDS Hons (Lond) MJDF RCS (Eng) MBBS

Contact email:

Article series edited by Dr Mishal Sachdev (Gentle Gum Care) and the team at Dental Protection.

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