Dr Louise Belfield is a University of Plymouth success story and one of a very few, if not the only, dental nurses to have achieved a PhD. She began working as a dental nurse at South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in 2001, both in general practice and then as a locum in dental specialities. During her time as a locum she undertook a BSc (Hons) Human Biosciences at University of Plymouth and wrote her dissertation on the effects of titanium oxide and calcium phosphate on macrophage responses to Porphyromonas gingivalislipopolysaccharide. After graduating, Dr Belfield continued to study oral immunology at Plymouth with a PhD entitled “Interactions between Porphyromonas gingivalis and macrophages in oral pathology".
Dr Belfield is a lecturer in biomedical sciences at the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, where she carries out research in oral immunology and is involved in planning and delivering the five-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree.
“I began this journey in the happy position of working as a dental nurse with a dentist who was really supportive and inspirational. I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it worked, and he was happy to support that interest by involving me in diagnoses and treatment, such as showing me radiographs and talking through what they contained.
“I’ve always loved being a dental nurse, but the more I learned in this practice the more my curiosity was fuelled, and I was determined to do something with that curiosity.
“I decided to sit a degree at the University of Plymouth and undertook a BSc (Hons) Human Biosciences. I still wanted to nurse and work with patients, so during the degree I worked as a locum dental nurse working in any number of situations, including the community, emergency clinics, domiciliary visits, schools and with people with special needs. In my third year I had a part-time post with NHS Direct in Exeter, working three days a week.
“My experience of studying for a degree and writing a dissertation (on the effects of titanium oxide and calcium phosphate on macrophage responses to Porphyromonas gingivalis lipopolysaccharide) were the catalyst for my decision to pursue a more research-centred career and go on to study for a PhD.
”This was on a similar topic to that of my honours dissertation - “Interactions between Porphyromonas gingivalis and macrophages in oral pathology”. Again, I turned to my nursing experience to see me through the experience and it was good to maintain my hands-on clinical skills while pursuing my academic ambitions.
“I achieved my PhD with the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and I am delighted that the organisation appointed me as a lecturer in biomedical sciences. The support I have received so far from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry has been wonderful, and has helped me to achieve both career and academic ambitions.”