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30.05.2015

Young Dentists Worldwide - The network for young dentists

Young Dentists Worldwide (YDW) was founded in Portugal in 1991 by 15 newly-qualified dentists. Today, YWD has just under 35,000 fans on Facebook (as of April 2015), and the number is growing. Ingmar Dobberstein is a dentist in Berlin and has just passed on the office of YDW President to the next generation. What lies behind his intensive commitment to young dentists, and what makes this international association, which sees itself as as a mediator between the International Association of Dental Students (IADS) and the World Dental Federation (WDF), so special?

D’life: Among other things, you are a founding member of the Association of Dental Alumni in Germany (BdZA), and are also active in numerous dental associations. What is your personal motivation in becoming so closely involved with young dentists in Germany and all over the world?

The world can be influenced, and our immediate surroundings most of all. Particularly in a freelance profession such as dental medicine, we depend on managing ourselves and to shape our profession. Of course, you can leave that to others, but for me that is always a question of the outcome. A long time ago, I decided to use what opportunities I had to exert influence. It began with the faculty student council during my university studies, continued in the Free Association of German Dentists and during my chairmanship of the Berlin Chamber of Dentists, and developed into the present situation, with the founding of the » BdZA and my work for » YDW. My focus on young dentists has grown particularly because of the way I have gotten to know the politics of the profession at a national and an international level from the "inside." Even though I met many impressive, inspirational people there, who work with real passion, there were also plenty of time-wasters and uninspired people on the job. Young dentists in particular, however, are significantly under-represented. But the decisions made at the policy level, and the way in which the course is set there, affect us much further into the future, much further than the time when many of these representatives will be working as dentists at all. It cannot be in our interest to have no influence on these policies.

From 2013 to March 2015, you were President of Young Dentists Worldwide and did a good deal of traveling for the association. What was the main goal of your travel abroad?

The principal aim of my work for the YDW is to provide networking for young dentists in various countries. You may not believe it, but dental medicine has many more differences worldwide than you would expect from a science. I mean this not just in aspects of treatment, the techniques available, access by patients to dental care in itself, or questions of hygiene, but also the immediate conditions in which young dentists themselves work. I am thinking not just of countries which, because of their economic situation as developing countries, have insufficient basic medical care, but also of neighbouring countries such as Spain and Portugal, where unemployment or underpayment among young dentists are not infrequent. In these situations, we try to help, to show examples from other countries, to exchange information, and to provide support. We hold talks, run workshops, and through our contacts, offer young academics other methods of presentation than would be possible within the hierarchies of their own countries. We support aid projects and young dentists' initiatives, but most of all, we indicate ways in which our young colleagues in other countries can make themselves heard and do something themselves about their own situation. Because one thing has impressed me particularly on my travels: since our colleagues in other countries are not as set in their ways as we are in Germany, many more things come to pass through independent initiatives than we are used to here at home.

Currently, what are the main working goals of the association, and where do you see the greatest opportunities for YDW to work?

My greatest goals during the presidency were both to found national associations for young dentists, though which the situation within the respective country can be improved through their own efforts, and to network the FDI world organization with new entrants to the profession. We successfully made a pioneering achievement when we founded the BdZA in 2009, against great opposition. Since then, a different kind of attention has definitely been paid to young dentists in this country; our interests are not just treated with a smile, but are now taken very seriously. Demographic change has certainly been helpful here but, despite everything, even in Germany, we have not yet reached everyone. Meanwhile, Young Dentists Portugal has been founded, and Polish and Italian organization is on the right path. In Egypt and Tunisia, we are at the beginning stage, and in Russia we are likewise on the right path. Our greatest opportunity is for us to do some things differently from the way the generation before us did them, and for me the most important thing is for us to work together as a group under the name Young Dentists and not, as happens all too often in Germany, to wear ourselves out with the personal problems of individuals at the head of organizations and associations, instead of engaging meaningfully in policy-making. The goal could be for dental medicine to integrate more and more internationally in training and practice, and for us to provide everyone with good dental treatment. We are still a long way from that.

Many thanks for the interview.

Published by: rf/tk 04/16
Ingmar Dobberstein, Dentist and Immediate Past President (IPP) of YDW

Ingmar Dobberstein, Dentist and Immediate Past President (IPP) of YDW

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