Annibale Coia talks to Julian English about his career in dentistry, what the future holds for dentistry in Scotland, and his hobbies outside of work.
What got you into dentistry?
In fourth year at secondary school I had no idea about future plans.
My parents were always encouraging me to go to university rather than continue in the family ice cream and café business.
I got chatting to my dentist at the time (Phil Dibden) who suggested that dentistry might be a career that I could consider. He also described the enjoyable social experiences he had as a student and I’m thankful to him for that. He also encouraged me to seek accommodation in Glasgow rather than travel every day and this was also sound advice.
I was also fortunate that I was studying the relevant entrance subjects at school and at that time the required entry qualifications, was four Bs. These days one needs five As.
What do you like most about it?
The ability with patient consent to undertake clinical treatment, helping to alleviate their anxieties and discomfort.
I enjoy the challenges that dentistry throws at you. Not only clinically but also with the ever-changing requirements and guidance. None more so than now as we are trying to overcome the current difficulties working through the COVID-19 pandemic. This has reinforced the need to have a strong team alongside you.
It is also rewarding trying to give patients ownership so that they can work towards preventing disease. This is not easy at the best of times.
I also enjoy working as a team to achieve these ends with my dental nurses, Danni, Tricia, Caroline, Nicole and Carla, hygienist, Marie and associate colleague Anna.
I have enjoyed the many years of mentoring a new graduate in their first steps from university on their professional career path. It has been great keeping in touch with my previous VDPs and watching their development over the years.
Nice to know that the future care of patients is in safe hands with them.
How do you see the future of dentistry in Scotland evolving?
I think that dentistry will change out of necessity. Not only from a political stand point but also from the change in disease patterns.
The current pandemic has forced the hand in terms of work patterns. However, my concern in the short term is the fallout from lockdown. With unmet dental care, a reduction in the number of patients who can be seen on a daily basis and the financial impact this will have on businesses.
Going forward, I am confident that dentistry will recover. And I hope that at some point the respect that the profession was held up to by the public when I was a new graduate, returns.
However, there are many dentists out there who are better placed to map out the future. But I would encourage as always, the younger members of the profession (I am not one of them) to speak out and get involved in any discussions. It is your opportunity to influence your future profession.
Have you had any unusual experiences in dentistry?
Once when undertaking a domiciliary visit as an associate in Edinburgh, I was asked if I could fill in a couple of small wall defects for a patient after she had removed some picture hooks.
This lovely elderly lady suggested that I use the filling material I had just used to repair her fractured cusp.
I duly obliged using the last of the glass ionomer material I had in the bottle.
I am happy to report that when I returned the following week she had smoothed the material with her fingernail emery board, and I re-hung the photographs. Her temporary GI filing was still there too.
How do you unwind outside of dentistry?
Spending time with my wife and enjoy swimming, cycling and running.
Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere in Italy.
What’s your favourite film?
Das Boot, followed by Cinema Paradiso.
What’s your favourite meal?
Anything Italian. As for a snack, I can’t ever pass on a bag of chips.
What’s your favourite book?
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Thanks go to my fourth-year English teacher, Mr Harry Duddy who introduced the class to this author.
What’s your favourite sport?
What do you prefer – Twitter, Facebook or Instagram?
Facebook, Twitter then Instagram. I think these social media platforms all play an important role in modern day communications.
What was the last picture you took with your phone?
The gas meter reading so that I could update my online gas account.
What kind of music do you listen to?
A variety of Indie music. I was a fan of ABBA before you were allowed to like them.
Sum yourself up in one word?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Having graduated 37 years ago, this interview has been helpful in allowing me to reflect on my professional career and how dentistry has evolved for me over the years.
I believe that my love of the profession has been down to working with great teams, choosing where I wanted to work and also mixing my GDP duties with dental postgraduate education.
In addition, having outside interests has helped along the way. I have had a privileged life to date but worked at achieving most of it.