Dr Poppy Anastassiadis – a journey with RACDS

Posted on 10th June 2020

The experience of graduate dentists is often a familiar path. From the collegiate atmosphere of uni you fall into the relatively isolated world of private practice – and don’t move much beyond it.

But even if you don’t have a particular plan for expanding your horizons or becoming a specialist, the experience of Dr Poppy Anastassiadis shows there are a lot of benefits to seeing an opportunity, shrugging, and saying, ‘Sure, I’ll try that.’

“It sounds flippant now,” she says, “but I had done some work experience in the dental practice and I thought, ‘This looks interesting.’ And then I got the offer to study at the University of Adelaide and thought, ‘Well, I’ll give it a go. If I don’t like it, I’ll try something else.’”

That curiosity turned into something she was very passionate about. Following her graduation, she started working in private practice but was also approached by one of her professors, asking if she was interested in some tutoring work.

“And from there I discovered that was something that I really enjoyed and felt that I could contribute to. When they initially offered it, I thought, ‘I don’t have all that much clinical experience under my belt.’ But once I got involved, I realised I did have a lot to contribute … I could remember very clearly the frustration about not being able to do something or not knowing how to build up the skills.”

The gap between theory and practice

There is inevitably a gap to some degree between what you learn in dental school and what you deal with in the world of clinical practice. “Dentistry is never black and white,” says Poppy. “There’s always a hundred different ways of doing things and there are a lot of grey areas. You need to use what’s available in the research to help give you a foundation. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that when you’re treating a patient, you’ve got to look at the patient that’s sitting in front of you. That patient’s never going to be the same as the patient or patients that were described in a clinical study.”

That becomes more apparent the first few years into clinical practice—while your lived experience helps you connect many of the things you’ve learnt.

One of the ways Poppy managed that gap was to apply for a fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (RACDS).

The RACDS is an independent body that is a community, a professional body, as well as an education institute. “They have different streams depending on interest and what qualifications you have,” she explains. “But the way you start in the college process of gaining accreditation is to do the primaries exams. And it’s an achievement to have finished those exams. And then if you choose to, once you’ve done those exams, you are eligible. Once you’ve, I think, done a certain amount of clinical work, then you are eligible to sit for the secondary exams or the finals. And that’s also run through the college. And once you’ve finished them, you’re recognised with a postgraduate qualification that goes above and beyond the initial requirements of a dentistry degree.

“I think once you’ve had a bit of experience, being able to go back and really have that grounding and foundation and look at the current literature, and be so much more academic and evidence-based in what you’re actually doing for your patients, is very rewarding. You can say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a patient in front of me, I’m providing the most up-to-date care’.”

The rewards of getting involved

Since that time Dr Anastassiadis’s career has taken her in complimentary directions: lecturing at the University of Adelaide, working as a general dentist, studying for a Masters in Clinical Education, and getting involved in the South Australian branch of the Australian Dental Association. The latter came about because someone asked her, and she thought why not.

“It’s a bit of a reoccurring theme of this story, isn’t it?” she laughs. “Someone that was involved in the college said, ‘I think you’d be a good fit for the ADA.’ It wasn’t anything I would’ve thought about before then. But again, by being involved in different things, I think I’ve got quite a broad exposure to people in the profession. So I naively said, ‘Okay’ and crossed my fingers that it was going to be okay. And there I developed an understanding about what goes on behind the scenes in terms of advocacy, and the challenges that are facing the profession as well. And how we can be involved in working for those things for patients and dentists at large.”

In general, she says it’s not only personally satisfying, it mitigates against the profession’s tendency towards isolation. “I think that’s definitely something that we can do quite easily, she adds. “And I think it’s probably to the detriment of ourselves and the profession broadly, and patients. But that shared experience and those connections, that’s nice. It’s not something that you find easy to maintain when you’re out of uni and you’re busy working. So that was a nice way to do it as well.”


You’re invited to enrol for the RACDS Orientation Course 2020.

Course duration: 7July – 5 August 2020 (3 evening sessions per week)

Delivery methods: Zoom & eLearning (recorded lectures supplemented by live sessions)

Cost (40% discount for 2020 candidates): $1,930 with Affiliate Membership, $2,484 for non-members

Enrolments close: Friday 26 June 2020

Visit the website for more information.