From the dizzying heights of England’s rugby triumphs at our home world cup to the long awaited return of BDH’s legendary fish tank, 2015 was already proving to be a year to remember. Yet most importantly it marked the 41st year of the Bristol-Hanover dental school exchange. In a controversial turn of events the school saw 5 year 3 and 7 year 2 students selected to go on the trip. After what can only be described as a tumultuous morning at BDH with the year 2’s traumatic rubber dam OSCE station leaving Gormley quivering in his crocs, it was a race out of BDH and onto our exciting week ahead. With Dr Hague being a last minute drop out due to being struck with flu and with Dr Gray being drafted in to mark our feeble OSCE efforts it soon became clear we were going it alone.
Bundled in to the back of the minibus we headed off to the unknown northern territories of Birmingham airport. Thanks to the delights of Tucker’s gluten free vegan snacks (ie.sawdust) and with Summers primed to snap on the notorious selfie stick it was sure to be a long journey… A swift flight over to Hanover provided the perfect opportunity to practice the old German which was sadly somewhat rusty and even non-existent for some. Arriving at Hanover airport we were greeted by Professors Eisenburger and Gunay from the dental school along with our host students. Mercifully it soon became clear their English was far superior to our German and perhaps even the English of our resident Glaswegian Lynsey Summers. Cue a quick awkward handshake with our exchanges and we said our farewells for the evening.
Our train journey from the airport of course met all expectations of stereotypically efficient German transport as we sped to Zentrum Zahn-, Mund- und Kieferheilkunde – Medizinische Hochschule Hanover (catchy, eh?!). The first day began on the hour sharp with a wonderfully welcoming reception from German staff and students alike. We received fascinating talks from each specialist department on their clinical work and research leading to a good deal of discussion in particular their use of telescopic crowns and more invasive restoratory work. Met by endless streams of coffee and many a pretzel at frequent breaks in the morning Davda’s contented face said it all. Lunch was then announced and the English descended upon the gargantuan canteen stocked with more German culinary delights, patisseries and fizzy drinks than I know not what. Undoubtedly a far cry from Bristol’s dreary dental café where we pictured our fellow students gazing out on to a cloudy drizzle whilst tucking in to their cheeseless toasty. Meanwhile Sethi and Stennett (sans flapjack) stumbled from counter to counter wide eyed and confused as where best to launch the food fest; all was to be paid for us by the exchange I might add. The afternoon saw us take a stimulating tour around Hanover with Langstaff capturing fantastic shots of the attractive German architecture, and with Mowla making good use of ‘the stick’ we captured some great pictures of our new found friendships on the exchange. This was soon followed by our first taste of German beer as we soaked up the afternoon sun sat outside a bar in Hanover’s teeming metropolis… idyllic some might say.
The following days were spent shadowing in the dental school, as you would expect there were many similarities between the course content covered in England and in Germany, however perhaps more interesting was seeing where their course differed. Our comfortable induction to removable partial dentures with Mr Sellen and Mr Green on the average value articulators (which let’s be honest is perplexing enough) appeared primitive to the technical prowess exhibited by their final year dental students who were constructing all their own dentures. We watched in astonishment at the shapes being thrown on their personally owned Denar D5A fully adjustable fully amazing articulators with more adjustable angles than I knew were possible.
We are hugely grateful to the Bristol Alumni who helped to renovate our lecture theatre, however it may look a little different to what our German counterparts are used to. Indeed their theatre featured a dental chair and unit installed at the front where we were told they hold weekly case presentations in which an individual presents a patient to the whole school. Not sure if that’s scarier for the patient of the student… We were treated fantastically by our German hosts who took us on so many amazing trips out including a visit to the nearby historical town of Celle where we somehow found ourselves immersed in the wedding procession of two fire fighters… a bizarre experience which got all too much for an emotional Sethi. Another interesting visit was spent at a local dental laboratory where staff demonstrated how their lab has transitioned over to high tech CAD/CAM in the production of custom zirconia crowns. On our last evening we dined at a traditional German pancake house. Feeling suitably stuffed with pancakes, a decision some would later come to regret, we hit Hanover City for a taste of local nightlife. With everyone a little worse for wear the next morning, the ‘all you can eat’ restaurant we were taken to for brunch was very welcomingly received. Our last day ended with a hairy pedal boat ride around Maschee Lake when the year 2 boyz boldly took on the girls’ for a race, one which they would sorely loose when Tucker and Swainson took to the helm. Meanwhile Patel and Edwards spent some quality bonding time with Prof Eisenburger taking him for a leisurely cruise on the lake, after which we all dug in to a much deserved currywurst.
When writing this piece I came across a Hanover report from 1974 which praised the German hosts on their hospitality and friendliness on the exchange, these comments could not be truer today. In true German fashion the programme had been planned to intricate detail and we all had a fantastic experience. An exceptionally high bar has been raised by our exchanges and we look forward to welcoming our newly found friends from Hanover to Bristol next June. We are hugely grateful to the alumni who have helped us with our sponsorship for the exchange in the past; we consider the exchange a unique part of our dental school and are keen for it to long continue in to the future.
Alex Gormley and Emily Tucker