Founded in 1942
The BDSA was founded in 1942 at a meeting of dental students in Manchester where a draft constitution was drawn up by students from all of the UK's dental schools.
The BDSA was formed in response to a lack of contact between students from different dental schools. Dental students also wanted to play a part in the discussions about a better society following the Second World War including the formation of the NHS.
The first president was Douglas Jackson and the first secretary to the association was Fredrick Hopper. It is amazing that they could find time to do so much for the BDSA with their other responsibilities of juggling student life and defending the country in the home guard!
Ever since the first AGM in Manchester there has been at least one annual national conference, with different schools taking it in turns to host the event. The conferences have always been some of the most enjoyable events of the student dental calendar.
In May 1947 the BDSA journal was launched. This was the start of publications from the association to improve communication between schools. Since then, the journal has had a number of different formats including a column in the British Dental Journal (BDJ). Since the 1990's, the BDSA has communicated to its members through a section in the BDA's Launchpad. In 2014 this was brought in line with the BDJ and Launchpad was relaunched as BDJ Student.
There are a number of issues that the BDSA has championed over the years which are hard to imagine for the dental student of the 21st century! For example, the BDSA managed to get hospitals to launder white coats in 1949. In 1951, the high cost of dental tools for students was debated. In response, the Ministry of Health raised the NHS grant from £6 to £24 to cover burs and the other tools of the trade. Can you imagine having to wash your own white coat or buy your own burs now?!
Sir Wilfred Fish presented the Presidential badge of office to the BDSA at the Bristol conference in 1955. This student badge office is still won today by the BDSA President at formal events and is a proud record of all the previous presidents of the association.
Some issues just don't go away. One prime example is student finance. Working closely with the BDA, the BDSA has been campaigning on this issue since day one - in the first instance for bigger grants, then against increasing tuition fees. Working as members of the BDA Student Committee, student reps are now pushing hard for the government to provide funding for jobs for all UK dental graduates and to maintain current salaries.
For many years the BDSA Committee has been formed of two local representatives from each UK dental school, plus a small Executive Committee. These reps have two roles, first to sit on the BDA Student Committee and carry out political work, and secondly to work as your BDSA rep to help arrange your national social events.
In 2009 and again in 2014, students voted for a name change for the school representatives, from BDSA rep to BDA rep, as it was felt that the new title summarised their role more effectively. The change also gives students a stronger voice both within the BDA and the wider dental political arena.
Dental student and school numbers have gone up and down over the past few decades. In 1981, a report predicted bleak prospects with underemployment seen as a future problem. In response, the Royal Dental Hospital closed in 1982 and the student intake in the other schools was reduced. The BDSA was involved throughout this period with the BDA in campaigns for student welfare.
In fact, underemployment never was a problem and there was actually a resulting shortage of dentists in the UK. In response three dental schools opened in recent years at Plymouth, Preston and Aberdeen. These schools were all exclusively graduate entry, four-year programs, until 2012 when the EU ruled that dental courses should be five years long. These changes pose exciting fresh debate and challenges for an association which is now over 70 years old!