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Dr. John Christie: W.W. Wood winner

Posted by Cheryl Bell on June 20, 2016 in News
Dr. John Christie: 2016 WW Wood Award winner

“Doing dentistry is a bit like flying solo. At a certain point you have to move from working on mannequins to treating real people. Sure, the pressure is on, but you are actually getting to do what you set out to do when you made the decision to become a dentist.”

It’s a fitting analogy from Dr. John Christie (DDS ’71), this year’s recipient of the 2016 W.W. Wood Award for Excellence in Dental Education. The award was presented to him at the Dentistry Convocation Dinner on June 1.

Not only is he a trained pilot, but Dr. Christie is one of the faculty members charged with gently shepherding third-year students from preclinical to clinical dentistry – helping them to do what they “set out to do” as aspiring dentists.

Dr. Christie joined the Faculty of Dentistry shortly after graduating from dental school, and embarked on what would become 40 years of combining teaching with private practice. “My father taught here,” says Dr. Christie, “and my partner John Cox and some of my classmates taught here. It was what you did.” He says he was inspired by the many excellent and innovative teachers he had when he was a student and by the colleagues he continues to learn from today.

Making the leap from mannequins to patients

In presenting the award to Dr. Christie, third-year student Abby Barton said that the transition to “a real live patient” is a “nerve-wracking” experience.

“I benefited from [Dr. Christie’s] unique ability to sense when a student needs a boost of confidence. His reassurance gave me the confidence I needed to be the competent dental student that he believed me to be.”

“I’ve always been able to empathise and be relaxed with the students,” says Dr. Christie. “They’re under incredible pressure when they first start working with patients.  In my experience, they benefit from being quietly supported. They certainly don’t need me getting excited.”

Over the years, Dr. Christie has received many different awards for his teaching, but he says the W. W. Wood Award is special. “To be recognised and nominated by the people you teach is about as good as it gets,” he says.

One of the other great rewards he feels that teaching gives him is the knowledge that he is training the next generation of dentists and teachers. “Our motivation here in the Faculty is to teach and support the students and turn out the best grads we can. Every year I feel confident that my successors are going to do fine.”