Wendy Smith with Nicola Brown (left) and Rob Witton (right)

Wendy Smith, Strategic Lead for Community Engagement at the newly-formed Plymouth health charity Well Connected, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Queen’s Honours list for her ‘services to oral health care and dental education in the South West’.

Wendy, who was a founding member of the Community Engagement team within the University's Peninsula Dental School, has worked in a variety of sectors during her career including education, local authority and social enterprise, with a particular focus upon people, communities and public health. Much of her career has been defined by collaborating with groups, individuals and organisations who support those people that face inequality or disadvantage in accessing dental treatment and oral healthcare. 

Wendy's work in helping to create the Well Connected Charity grew out of the unique community engagement model that she helped to establish over the last ten years with colleagues in the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PU PSMD). Wendy's expertise in community based education and health initiatives and her dedication to community engagement led to the launch of the charity earlier this year, which continues to offer valuable support to local communities in partnership with the Faculty.

Wendy said: 

“I am delighted to be receiving this award and am accepting it in recognition of the work we have all done to raise the profile of oral health in the community and to support the education of health professionals for the 21st Century. I have the privilege of working with an amazing team of people at Well Connected, brilliant community groups, inspiring dental, dental hygiene therapy and medical students and have been hugely supported by colleagues at the Peninsula Dental School, the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise and the University.”

Professor Robert Sneyd, Dean of PU PSMD, said: 

"Social engagement is a cornerstone of our undergraduate programmes in medicine and dentistry. Wendy Smith and her colleagues bring together our community and our students with benefit to both parties. I'm very proud of their achievements which are in large part attributable to Wendy's enthusiasm, energy and determination." 

Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of the Peninsula Dental School, added: 

“Wendy has, for a number of years, been at the heart of the Community Engagement Team and this in turns sits at the heart of the Dental School. Wendy not only helps care to be delivered to those that need it the most, but also brings enrichment to the training and education that we can offer to our students – something that she continues to do via Well Connected. I am delighted and proud for Wendy that she has been recognised in this way – it is really well deserved.”

Well Connected is a new and exciting venture bringing together key partners to deliver more for local communities using an established and successful model of community engagement for better health. The team are experts in this field and have already established a range of innovative and effective projects which have attracted national and international interest. The new Charity enables the team to expand their reach and continue to build on this exciting opportunity.

Dr Robert Witton, Director of Social Engagement and Community-based Dentistry at PU PMSD, said: 

“I am absolutely delighted with this news recognising Wendy’s contribution to oral health and dental education in the South West. Wendy has worked passionately on developing community partnerships to enable learning opportunities for undergraduate medical and dental students in Devon and Cornwall. This approach is highly valued by all parties and Wendy has made a significant and long lasting impact on many people’s lives in the south west through this work.”

An MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) is awarded by Her Majesty the Queen after an individual is nominated for their outstanding achievement or service to the community. An independent Honours Committee reviews the nomination application and makes the final award decision.

Wendy adds: 

“Receiving the award all seems a bit unreal at the moment; on a personal level I am, of course, hugely proud of the recognition. My parents instilled in me the importance of valuing people, working hard, being positive and always going the extra mile with a smile! They would, I am sure, have been very proud.”

Other members of the University community to be honoured include Professor Richard Thompson, of the School of Biological and Marine Sciences. Professor Thompson, who has been one of the world's foremost experts of plastic pollution in the sea, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Professor Stephen Sparks, CBE, an Honorary Doctor of Science, was knighted for services to volcanology and geology; author Michael Morpurgo, a Doctor of Education, was knighted for services to literature and charity; and Dr Helen Sharman, an Honorary Doctor of Technology, was appointed to the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, for services to science and technology educational outreach.