Professor Sally Hanks

Professor Sally Hanks

Professor of Primary Care Dentistry

Peninsula Dental School (Faculty of Health)



Associate Dean for Education and Student Experience Faculty of Health and Professor of Primary Care Dentistry, Peninsula Dental School 

I qualified from Bristol Dental School in 1993 and spent the first 10 years of my career working full time in Primary Care Dentistry. This included roles in the NHS, private practice, SHO experience and as a civilian dental officer with the Royal Navy.

The next five-year phase saw my clinical career develop by working with special care patients within the Community Dental Services on referral as well as delivering domiciliary care to local care, nursing and residential homes for adults and children. I developed my interest and expertise in non pharmacological and behavioural management strategies during this time and gained my Advanced Diploma in Hypnosis and Stress Management from the University of Stafford in 2010.
Before joining Peninsula I was a Restorative Clinical Lecturer at Bristol Dental School. At Peninsula I quickly progressed to Final Year Lead, lead for professionalism and gained my Post-Graduate Certificate of Academic Practice. I was awarded my PhD in medical education related to leadership in Primary Care Dental Practice. Underpinned by a social constructivist approach, using traditional ethnography and innovative video reflexive ethnography methods and Activity Theory as the theoretical lens for analysis, the final 'Hanks framework' is a conceptual framework of leadership for dentists that has been grounded in Primary Care General Dental Practice. Alongside and complementary to this work is the educational concept of capability and the framework I and 2 medical colleagues developed, to support the concept for learning and education activities. 

My interest in patient-centred personalised care and student-centred education influences my approach to ongoing research projects and teaching. I continue creating, developing and delivering innovative curriculum activities and Continuing Professional Development opportunities for undergraduate and post-graduate students, and qualified dentists, to ensure initial preparedness for practice, along with ongoing life long development. 
I co-lead the Oral health services, workforce development and clinical epidemiology Research group ( in the Dental School where we conduct research relevant to Primary Care Practitioners across their life course from pre admission into Dental School through to retirement. My motivation is to inspire and embed inclusivity and humanity into education and healthcare for our patients, our trainees and our teams, while ensuring our entire dental workforce team is awarded the opportunities they need to thrive in their individual careers.



I am responsible for the strategic direction of education and student experience within the Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth. The Faculty houses 6 schools (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Midwifery, School of Health Professions, Psychology, Biomedical Science) running numerous undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

My particular clinical interest is in patient-centred care and behavioural management for patients with special needs and those who have a fear of the dentist. I use clinical hypnosis and its philosophy to underpin all of my work. I am currently the President of the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis and a council member of the RSM Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine section.

My education interests are wide ranging, but focused in leadership development and Emotional Intelligence; developing and maintaining capability; and personal and professional development to enable individuals to be the best they can be. How to achieve this will be through the use of best practice, innovative and inclusive teaching, learning and assessment activities, as well as one-to-one development support. EI plays a vital role in all of these areas, and my overarching interests related to that are communication, leadership, coaching & personal development, development of capability, professionalism and how to provide holistic and personalised care/education/support.

I have been awarded the prestigious Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and am Fellow of the Faculty of Dental Trainers of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. 

I set up and was inaugural chair of the UK Council of the Dental Teachers of Professionalism - the home for the education of professionalism across dental education for undergraduate and postgraduate institutions and am a founder member of the Steering Group for the Association of Dental Education in Europe (ADEE) Professionalism Community of Practice.

Professional membership

Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) 

Faculty of Dental Trainers Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh

SRHE (Society for Research in higher Education)

AMEE (Association of Medical Education in Europe)

ADEE (association of Dental Education in Europe)

BSCAH (Accred) (British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis)

Roles on external bodies

Dental School Council Education Leads Committee.

La Trobe Rural Health School Course Advisory Committee Dental and Oral Healthcare programmes, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Founder and founding chair: UK Council for the Dental Teachers of Professionalism

Tutor for number of regional and national groups (including DFT, British Association of Oral Surgeons) on subject of communication, medical hypnosis and behavioural management of the anxious patient

Book proposal reviewer for Oxford University Press & Wiley

Reviewer for Medical Education, British Dental Journal, European Journal of Dental Education, SRHE.

Conference Organiser, BSCAH annual conference 2020 "Think it possible that you may be mistaken? Challenging assumptions & developing new ideas" Dartington Hall 


Teaching interests

The use of Health Humanities, integrative and inter-professional education to promote development of communication, empathy, team working, self awareness, emotional intelligence and self-development in healthcare students across a range of disciplines for the benefit of patient care. While the humanities are widely used in medical education they are less evident within dental education. In developing inter professional learning opportunities for dental undergraduates in Peninsula, I work with colleagues across the Faculty of Health and Arts and Humanities to develop such opportunities.

My PhD in Leadership in Dental Practice enabled me to develop a conceptual framework of leadership that underpins teaching, learning and development sessions for undergraduate dental students as well as qualified dentists including Dental Foundation Trainers. Through developing a framework through which to explore personal and practice leadership, I am able to provide one to one or groups workshops and talks to support individuals, practices and wider groups to understand and optimise their leadership skills, to enhance patient care, support the running of a surgery or practice, and to explore, address and develop insight for the business of dentistry. 

Underpinning many of my specific teaching interests is the notion of developing capability over competency. This is the key to understanding and demonstrating how each of us as individuals has a unique set of attributes which contribute to what we do and how we do it. Capability includes personal and professional attributes which a clinician must have to be able to care for their patients successfully. In these days of competency and outcomes based education we must find ways of understanding, educating and assessing capability for the sake of both patients and healthcare workers.

Additional teaching expertise: 

Education and Curriculum development

Programmatic Assessment


Leadership in Dentistry

Teamworking and management of the dysfunctional team

Hypnosis and Stress Management

Non pharmacological treatment of anxious patients

Personal and professional development planning

Professionalism and performance (including Fitness to Practise)

Feedback:Assessment and the Student Voice

Managing patient expectations

Staff serving as external examiners

University of Liverpool 2nd BDS Clinical Readiness Exam and the new centennial Curriculum.



Research interests

I am particularly interested in undertaking robust qualitative research and my main areas of focus are leadership, capability and professionalism. All these areas are related to supporting students to be prepared for, and to continually develop and strive for excellence in, the ‘real world’ of their chosen clinical field.

I am also interested in clinical translational or regulatory research that informs or influences education directly.

Ongoing projects

GDC funded: Unlocking the potential of GDC Fitness to Practise data

Locally funded: Exploration of barriers, facilitators and enablers influencing recruitment and retention of dentists to South West England

SIF funded: The Digital Dimensions of Affective Intelligence in Clinical Care and Clinical Training

PhD supervised projects: Understanding how people interpret and respond to uncertainties in oral health-related information – An exploratory study among selected multi-ethnic groups of Malaysia; Evaluating the function of ACE2 in oral tissues associated COVID-19 infection

National Collaborations HEE funded: Ensuring a continuum approach to dental education (Peninsula, Liverpool and Newcastle)

Recently completed research:

GDC funded: Review and mapping of basic dental training in EU member states final report available

SIF funded: Enhancing the acquisition of soft skills, sensitivity and anticipation in training clinical dentists through video ethnographic methods. How we can prepare and sensitise clinical dentists to anticipate discomfort and the unexpected in their practice?

Interdisciplinary project: audio diaries to explore transformative learning through social engagement 

PhD: Deconstructing, contextualising and assessing management and leadership criteria for dental professionals: an ethnographic study of principles in practice

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

MSc Supervisor: An exploratory study investigating the effects of online human factors training on medical students’ behaviour in a peripheral intravenous cannulation hybrid simulation (successful supervision to completion with merit)

Clinical advisor PhD: Plasticiser Phthalates, Endocrine Disrupters and Composite Breakdown Materials in Dental Patients. Successful completion 2017

Grants & contracts

GDC Award: Unlocking the potential of GDC Fitness to Practise data. £126,426 + VAT Awarded September 2021
Health Education England, Education innovation in dentistry: Ensuring and education continuum. Collaboration Plymouth, Liverpool &b Newcastle Dental Schools. £15,000 Awarded January 2021   
University of Plymouth Arts Health collaboration:  Haptic dental simulation models – Enhancing the acquisition of soft skills, sensitivity and anticipation in training clinical dentists. £3908.70 Awarded April 2021
University of Plymouth internal Faculty of Health Award: Student-led Knowledge Exchange Challenge Fund for Digital Health. £10,000 Awarded March 2021
GDC award: Review and mapping of basic dental training in EU member states.  £21,026 Awarded September 2019
ADEE 40th Anniversary Scholarship Award - awarded in academic year 2015-16



Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Carter H, Hanks S, Johnson R & Gale T (2024) 'Educating for capability and preparing for practice: Integrating theory and skills' The Clinical Teacher , DOI Open access
Evans D, Mills I & Hanks S (2023) 'Does the NHS Dental Workforce Plan in England align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals?' British Dental Journal 235, (8) 566-567 , DOI Open access
Mills I, Bryce M, Clarry L, Evans D & Hanks S (2023) 'Dental practice workforce challenges in rural England: survey into recruitment and retention in Devon and Cornwall' British Dental Journal , DOI Open access
Chilton JK, Hanks S & Watson HR (2023) 'A blended future? A cross‐sectional study demonstrating the impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic on student experiences of well‐being, teaching and learning' European Journal of Dental Education , DOI Open access
Gao Y, Kok WL, Sharma V, Illsley CS, Hanks S, Tredwin C & Hu B (2023) 'SARS-CoV-2 infection causes periodontal fibrotic pathogenesis through deregulating mitochondrial beta-oxidation' Cell Death Discovery 9, (1) , DOI Open access
Evans D, Mills I, Burns L, Bryce M & Hanks S (2023) 'The dental workforce recruitment and retention crisis in the UK' British Dental Journal 234, (8) 573-577 , DOI Open access
Evans D, Burns L, Mills I, Bryce M & Hanks S (2023) 'Recruitment and retention in dentistry in the UK: a scoping review to explore the challenges across the UK, with a particular interest in rural and coastal areas' British Dental Journal , DOI Open access
Bryce M, Zahra D, Burns L, Hanks S & Gale T (2022) 'Progress and challenges in the harmonisation of European undergraduate dental education: a systematic literature review with narrative synthesis' European Journal of Dental Education , DOI Open access
Tredwin C, Hanks S, Witton R, McColl E & Coelho C (2022) 'Dental education in primary care: 14 years of Peninsula Dental School' British Dental Journal 233, (3) 227-231 , DOI Open access
Neve H & Hanks S (2022) 'Tangrams: a simple visual tool for communicating the complexities of professionalism' MedEdPublish 12, 2-2 , DOI Open access
Eachempati P, Büchter RB, KS KK, Hanks S, Martin J & Nasser M (2022) 'Developing an integrated multilevel model of uncertainty in health care: a qualitative systematic review and thematic synthesis' BMJ Global Health 7, (5) , DOI Open access
Hanks S (2022) 'Professionalism and dental education: in search of a shared understanding' British Dental Journal (BDJ) , DOI Open access
Coelho C, Tredwin C, Watson H & Hanks S (2022) 'It is difficult to think about becoming what you have never seen”: Black students perceptions around a career in academic dentistry' British Dental Journal (BDJ) , DOI Open access
Neve H & Hanks S (2022) 'Tangrams: a simple visual tool for communicating the complexities of professionalism' MedEdPublish 12, 2-2 , DOI Open access
Sadura Z, Hanks S, Tredwin C & McColl E (2021) 'The dental therapist's role in a 'shared care' approach to optimise clinical outcomes' BDJ Team 8, (8) 38-42 , DOI Open access
Sadura Z, Hanks S, Tredwin C & McColl E (2021) 'The dental therapist's role in a 'shared care' approach to optimise clinical outcomes' British Dental Journal (BDJ) 231, (2) 104-108 , DOI Open access
Ali K, Hanks S & Cockerill J (2021) 'What is the value of simulated patient assessment in structured clinical examinations of undergraduate students and how should it be used?' European Journal of Dental Education , DOI Open access
Hanks S, Neve H & Gale T (2021) 'Preparing Health Profession Students for Practice in Complex Real World Settings: How Do Educators Respond to a Model of Capability?' International Journal of Practice-based Learning in Health and Social Care 9, (1) 50-63 , DOI Open access
Ali K, McColl E, Tredwin C, Hanks S, Coelho C & Witton R (2021) 'Addressing racial inequalities in dental education: decolonising the dental curricula' British Dental Journal 230, (3) 165-169 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Hanks SJ & Coelho CS (2020) 'Students’ views on the sustained impact of a learning approach developed by blending pedagogy to prepare for professional practice: introducing ‘Daybook’' European Journal of Dental Education , DOI Open access
Hanks S, Neve H, Smith W & Heath M (2020) '“Today’s shook me up a lot inside…it’s definitely changed me”: emotional responses and transformative learning through working with disadvantaged communities' Education for Primary Care , DOI Open access
Sally H, Cotton D & Spowart L (2020) 'Leadership in Dental Practice: a Three Stage Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis' Journal of Dentistry 103480-103480 , DOI Open access
Carter H, Hanks S & Gale T (2020) 'A qualitative study using hybrid simulation to explore the impacts of human factors e-learning on behaviour change' Advances in Simulation 5, (1) , DOI Open access
Hanks S (2020) 'Leadership and followership in a pandemic - where do you stand?' Journal of the Irish Dental Association 108-111 Publisher Site Open access
Hanks S (2020) 'Taking The Lead' Journal of the Irish Dental Association Publisher Site Open access
Hanks S, Coelho C & Coster R (2018) 'Prepared for practice and equipped for employment: what do dental foundation trainers think of their trainees?' British Dental Journal 225, (6) 549-555 Author Site , DOI Open access
Collett T, Hanks S, Watson H & Davies T (2017) 'Collecting student feedback: a whole-school approach' Medical Education 51, (5) 547-548 , DOI Open access
Hanks S (2016) 'Reflections on learning and enhancing communication skills through community engagement: a student perspective' British Dental Journal , DOI Open access
Neve H & Hanks S (2016) 'When I say.........capability' Medical Education 50, (6) 610-611 , DOI Open access
Wileman SJ, Hanks S, Priston M, Deperalta T, Rigby-Jones A & Sneyd J (2016) 'Endocrine disruptors in paediatric patients & in-vitro sealant weight variability' Dental Materials 32, Author Site , DOI
Gale T, Bryce M, Burns L, Hanks S & Zahra D (2021) Review and mapping of basic dental training in EU member states: final report. General Dental Council Publisher Site
Presentations and posters
Hanks S & Johnson I Hanks S & Johnson I 'Freestage session: Developing a national group to support dental professionalism teaching and teachers' Open access


Conferences organised

Joint GDC, Dental Schools' Council & Dental Teacher's of Professionalism conference: Developing a common approach to Student Fitness to Practise. 29th January 2020. QMUL, London

BSCAH Annual Conference 2020 . Think it possible that you may be mistaken? Challenging assumptions & developing new ideas. Dartington Hall, Devon POSTPONED DUE TO COVID 19 until SUMMER 2021


Additional information

I run a suite of 'train the trainer' education sessions for clinical assessors: 
  • Failing to Fail. 
  • What do you mean I'm not excellent?: coping with student responses to feedback
  • Encouraging learning in the clinical environment
  • Giving feedback in the clinical environment: flipping the COIN