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Dentistry Dean's Speech


The University of the Western Cape Faculty of Dentistry signs historic agreement with Asahi Meikai Universities in Japan


The honourable Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Asahi University and Meikai University Jun Miyato; the President of Asahi University Prof Katsuyuki Ohtomo; Distinguished Professors and teachers; Graduating students, and family members.

It is indeed an honour to be invited to speak at such an auspicious gathering.  Graduations are special, they are important in our lives because they symbolise a turning point, a new page, a new beginning.  However it is important to not only focus on the graduation  but also on what happens before and after graduation.

Leading up to the graduation is years of hard work.  The Schools of Dentistry at Asahi and Meikai Universities offer a 6 year integrated programme, the Dental Schools in South Africa offer a 5-year programme and I am often asked why so long?  Students ask why do I have to do all the Basic Science courses? What do I need to know about photosynthesis?  The answer to these questions lies in Nature.

Lets look at a Butterfly.  This is one of the most amazing and beautiful creatures in Nature but to get there it has to go through various stages of development.  Each stage very different, very challenging but very necessary for the development of the full potential of the butterfly.

The stages involved in the development of the butterfly are the

Egg stage

Larva stage

Pupa stage

And the adult butterfly stage.

Each stage has a specific outcome and if this is not achieved or if it is  compromised in anyway it will influence the success of the next stage and ultimately the beauty and agility of the butterfly.

An example is the development from the Pupa stage to the Adult stage.  Here the changes happen inside the shell and only when the pupa is ready will it start breaking out of the shell from the inside and become an adult.  Now if we tried to hurry this process by removing the shell we will have a defective butterfly which will not be able to fly and will soon die.  The reason being that while the pupa is breaking the shell  blood is being pumped into the wings of the butterfly thus strengthening the wings which ultimately will enable the butterfly to fly and to flourish.

Similarly with your programme each stage is necessary to prepare you for the next stage and to ultimately develop you into “well rounded and open-minded citizens (not just professionals) who will work towards a harmonious society and contribute to the public good (Mission statement Meikai University).  Thus the programme is “Socialization into the profession and the World”. This needs time and maturation.  Upon successful completion you than reach the highlight which is the graduation ceremony.

A graduation ceremony symbolises the conversion of a lay person to a person that becomes a member of a profession.  Throughout history these ceremonies have been earmarked as milestones in the training of individuals.  This ceremony is an acknowledgement by your teachers that you have mastered a training programme and as such they want to announce to the world that you are qualified and competent to be regarded as their peers.  This is “public acknowledgement in the presence of significant witnesses” including academics, family and friends that you can now assume the responsibilities of your profession and your role in society.

For what you get at a graduation ceremony is not just a degree but a licence which states that you have the qualities to be the agents of social change. This now brings us to your time as a professional after this graduation ceremony.

The education philosophy of Asahi University is to provide its students with an education that encourages lifelong study and a philosophy of contributing positively to the local and global community.  This philosophy is in line with International trends where lifelong learning and global citizenship are key graduate attributes of all professionals.

For lifelong learning you have to take personal responsibility.  You have the core knowledge base it is now up to you to ask key questions, to critically assess and reflect on what you do? How you do it? And why you do it?  You must at all times remain curious, intellectually challenge yourself as that will keep you at the cutting edge of your profession. You belong to a Country where your Senpais are second only to the United States of America in the number of Scientific publications produced per year in the World. In addition Japan as a Country registers a third of all the patents registered annually in the World. It is your responsibility as future Scientists / Clinicians to maintain or better still to improve on this position.

As regards global citizenship we know with the technological advances the world is now regarded as a Village and you and I are members of that village.  It is incumbent upon us to explore and expose ourselves to the richness of multi-cultural and international experiences, opportunities and ways of thinking.  We share one World and therefore it is in all our interests to work together to preserve and safeguard what we have for future generations.

Asahi University has been promoting internationalization since 1971 and hopefully our visit to Japan will strengthen ties between our Universities and result in exchanges that can only benefit us, our profession and our countries.

I wish you all the best of luck in your careers.  I know from what I have experienced thus far that you have a solid foundation and I am certain that you will be successful.  May I take this opportunity to invite you to visit South Africa and the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town particularly so that we can continue this journey on collaboration between our Universities and our Countries.

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