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I Am UWC: Riaan Mulder Wins Paediatric Dentist Award

Paediatric dentist - and UWC lecturer and alum Riaan Mulder - recently earned a prestigious 3M ESPE Talent Awards for his work on Ion movement adjacent to the inter-diffusion zone of GICs.

Paediatric dentist - and proud University of the Western Cape alumnus - Riaan Mulder, was amongst the winners at the 2017 3M ESPE Talent Awards, the sole representative of young dentists in South Africa.

The 3M ESPE Talent Awards seek to encourage the intellectual growth of young dental lecturers and researchers in the early stages of their careers. At the 2017 awards, there were 20 young dentists from Europe - and one from South Africa.

After five years in solo private practice, Mulder recently returned to UWC to take up a Paediatric Dentistry position at UWC’s Faculty of Dentistry - the very same school where he received his BChD in Dentistry and MSc in Restorative Dentistry.

“I returned to UWC mainly because I strive to constantly gain knowledge and skills,” he explains. “When I first started studying, I realized how important an integrated knowledge of the human anatomy, pharmacology and disease processes was – for me to be an effective dental practitioner.”

Mulder provides undergraduate and academic teaching and supervises post-grads, and still finds time to author research papers in dental materials and dental lasers.

Besides clinical skills he firmly advocates for and educates students with the complete comprehension of a concept or disease process. This ensures that the student will be equipped for their career as a dentist.

But his key interest at UWC is research.  That’s been true ever since undergrad, where he developed, manufactured, patented and researched his own invention: super–absorbent isolation rolls (improved cotton rolls for absorbing saliva and water in the oral cavity).

“I don’t really see research as work,” he says. “It’s more of a passion.”

Mulder entered the awards with his work on Ion movement adjacent to the inter-diffusion zone of GICs.

In order to apply for the 3M ESPE Talent Awards, abstracts were submitted for selection by a panel of expert judges from European universities. 15-minute powerpoint presentations and 5 minutes of questions were completed from 17-18 October in Seefeld, Germany at the 3M ESPE Dental Materials headquarters.

“This award provides exposure for myself and the University, and is further indication that our research can be presented on an international level,” Mulder shares. “It also highlights the importance of research into dental materials, and improves our understanding of the bioactivity of restorations with tooth structure.”

Mulder was honoured to obtain second place at the 3M ESPE Awards, given how prestigious they have become, and next to rising minds from the best dental universities in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The projects are judged by professors that shaped the profession and the literature we use every day,” he says. “These judges have taken time from their schedules to give back to young researchers, providing us a platform for growth and international exposure.”

Life-Long Learning For Dental Excellence

Mulder’s presentation formed part of the PhD research regarding biomaterials that he is currently busy with.

“My work is aimed at providing restorations that are more active in bacterial reduction and provide greater advantageous interaction with tooth structure.”

Of course, working on a PhD while researching and lecturing isn’t easy.

“Balancing your personal life while being a part-time PhD student is not always easy - . working late nights and weekends on my PhD has become the norm.”

Luckily, he has a strong support system.

“I’m grateful for the guidance of my supervisor Professor Nadia Mohamed and the financial support from the UWC Dentistry Dean’s Office, UWC Research Office and the Dentistry Development Fund Trust,” Mulder says. “And I am very grateful to my wife for her unfaltering support in this difficult journey.”

The prize winners were:

  • Scientific research: 1st place Berlin

  • Orthodontics: 1st place Spain

  • Clinical cases: 1st place Lithuania

  • Overall: 2nd South Africa, 3rd Italy.

UWC’s Faculty of Dentistry is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, marking four decades of life-changing service and education by Africa’s leading dental school. Want to know more about what makes this Faculty so great? Just read this or watch this video, and you’ll get the idea...