Mastering the Art of Dentistry

08/11/2022 | 3 mins

The UWA Dental School recently hosted alumni and friends of the School, at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery for a Health Humanities presentation from Dr Kelby Smith-Han and Dr Emma Bartle. 

Dr Smith-Han, Senior Lecturer, Health Professions Education in the School of Allied Health, shared how the health humanities discipline developed from a concern that focus and time on core health-practice elements, such as communication and empathy, might diminish at times due to the volume of scientific knowledge required in today’s practice. 

“Humanities knowledge and methods can be used to enhance skills relevant to health practice, such as active listening, observing, critical thinking, tolerance of ambiguity, interpretation and reflection, Dr Smith-Han said.

During the event Dr Smith-Han and Dr Bartle demonstrated object-based learning techniques, inviting the audience to observe and discuss artworks, including a depiction of historical dental practices

The technique demonstrated how different people observe and feel differently when interpreting an artwork and that this understanding could also be applied to how people may react differently to situations concerning their health.  

students at LWAG


Caption: Student representatives Thomas Mahoney, Scott Santarossa, Zeidri Rasmussen, Jim Rae by the pearly white of the moon (Artist: Kevin Robertson).

Dr Bartle, who returned to UWA this year after working for the University of Queensland Dental School, discussed how health humanities can be relevant to the practice of dentistry and dental education. 

While drawing and sculpture has long been used in the study of anatomy, humanities can enhance more intangible skills and values such as cultural competence, professionalism and ethics, while also contributing to practical skills such as history taking,” Dr Bartle said. 

The event also celebrated a milestone in the plans to transform the 20 year old Operative Technique (Optech) laboratory, part of the Oral Health Centre, into a Clinical Skills Simulation Laboratory, with advanced new equipment and expanded workstation numbers.

The Oral Health Centre of WA plays a vital role in preparing the dental professionals of the future, as well as serving patients in need under state government treatment subsidy programs. 

Dr Ross Bailey is the Chair of the Western Australian Dental Foundation.

“We are now more than halfway towards our goal of raising $700,000 for the project, to complement UWA’s $2.2 million investment into the exciting refurbishment, Dr Bailey said.

“Twenty years ago, the dental community dug deep to ensure that dental education would continue in Western Australia.

Now, a new generation of dentists has an opportunity to join their colleagues in giving back, to support dental education’s future in our state.” 

Professor Hien Ngo, Head of UWA Dental School announced that Dentsply Sirona is the successful tenderer for the refurbishment. 

“Dentsply Sirona delivered the previous upgrade of our clinical area within a tight timeframe during the pandemic, so we have confidence that they can deliver a speedy installation again” Professor Hien Ngo said. 

“The refurbishment is scheduled to go ahead in the summer break, so we hope our community will help us reach the goal in time.” 

Students are also excited about the facilities upgrade. Scott Santarossa is a current student in the Dental School. 

“Many workplaces now expect us to be digital ready, so the ability to practice CAD-CAM workflows and digital planning will make us more employable,Mr Santarossa said.

“We also hope the refurbishment will attract more students from around the world, making UWA Dental School even more vibrant and diverse.”


For queries or to discuss making a contribution, contact:

Kate McKenzie, Development Manager

(08) 6488 8542 •

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