Promoting Word of Mouth

Promoting Word of Mouth


Prof. Lakshman Samaranayake, Dean of Dentistry

Publish or perish. It's a refrain heard on many campuses in reference to academic reputation but the Dean of Dentistry, Professor Lakshman Samaranayake, says it applies just as much to knowledge exchange.

The Faculty was the first in the University to establish a knowledge exchange unit in 2008 and hired a scientific writer to help get its message across.

''I always tell students that research not published is research not done. The same goes for knowledge exchange. If we do research and don't publish and publicize, then people don't know if it is done or not; it just hides in libraries,'' he says.
 
''As intellectuals and academics, we have an obligation to society to not just sit in laboratories and do our work, but to work for the good of the public. We're all paid by taxpayers' money and we have to show the public what they get. I'm a passionate believer in this.''
 
The Faculty gets the word out through a regular newsletter and activities in the community. Community dentistry is also embedded into the dental curriculum as students are required to venture out in their fourth year to introduce basic oral health to under-served groups, such as drug addicts, Indonesian domestic helpers, people with special needs and kindergarten children.
 
The Faculty is also working with big firms such as Colgate to educate the public about the importance of oral health. A body of research has shown a link between oral health and other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriages and stillbirths.
 
''Though Hong Kong is considered to be a developed city, there's a huge need for oral health,'' Professor Samaranayake says. ''Awareness is low and as a result oral health has low priority in comparison to general health. This is probably true of Asia as a whole. We have an obligation to tell the community about the importance of oral health.''
 
As the knowledge that is regularly disseminated by the Faculty to the community is underpinned by quality research, knowledge exchange also contributes to the Faculty's reputation in the field.  Not only the dental profession but also other dental faculties around the world become more aware of the Faculty's work.  The Faculty has been asked by more than 15 faculties in other universities to sign a Memorandum of Understanding over the past five years.
 
Apart from its current activities, the Faculty is looking for new ways to reach people, particularly through social media, and is integrating knowledge exchange more closely into teaching and learning so that all students, staff and alumni are able to help patients and the public incorporate oral health into their everyday lives.