James Nwaduba

Plymouth chose me

I want to be a dentist. I will be a dentist.

Since sixth form I’ve known where I want to go. But the journey there hasn’t been plain sailing.

I applied to dental schools around the country and did not get in anywhere.

Thanks to an intensive summer of work experience in Year 12, I already knew what I didn’t want to do. Roles in a laboratory, as well as one in acute care, allowed me to test the water, and I found our these fields were not for me.

I tripled my efforts on a gap year to ensure I would be accepted next time I applied. I completed my apprenticeship as a dental nurse, which gave me experience of practice and patients, the cost of tools and materials, too.

During this year, a friend recommended Plymouth. I didn’t know anything about Plymouth or really where it was. But I checked it out and applied.

Circumstances made me choose Plymouth, but in a way, I feel Plymouth actually chose me. The University saw something in me and I got a place on the BDS Dental Surgery programme – they believed in me from the start.

From my interview, to my first few days, all the way to completing Year 3, I have felt valued and respected. They are really down to earth. They want to make you the best dentist and the best person behind the uniform.

Becoming a dentist is about the clinical and technical side of things. It is also about growing as a person – my confidence, my communication skills – half of it is managing yourself. The other half is managing your patients. Plymouth helps us get ready for this.

James Nwaduba
The Roland Levinksy Building

Designing my own career path

My route is not a conventional one for dental students.

With my first three years completed, I discovered the idea of intercalation – an opportunity to experience a different direction of study and gain new skills.

This led me to intercalating on to the MSc Biomedical Science masters programme. I did this to undertake a research project in periodontal disease, which may help me pursue a career as a dentist specialising in gum treatment.

My career can now evolve in many directions, perhaps even into academia. It made sense while I am still wearing my study hat, rather than completing postgraduate study after starting my career.

Dental students in Phantom Head room in Portland Square.
Using the Anatomage Table

From phantom heads to real heads

Treating patients is the best thing ever. It’s fantastic.

We were practising on the phantom heads by the second day – the school has really great training resources.

The teaching staff said, ‘you are here to be dentists, so there is no point holding you back’. I know friends at other dental schools didn’t treat a patient until their third year.

Last year, on a Monday and Thursday we had to catch a bus to Exeter to get to our placements. This meant getting up at six to catch a bus to treat patients all day. Although we moaned about the long hard days, we all loved it because it gave us a window into our future working lives. And at the end of the day, with a cup of tea in hand, I always felt proud of what I achieved.

Dentistry is a pretty practical vocation, so it is great we have these opportunities.

If I have to use a drill with 300,000 revs per minutes to take half a millimetre off the side of a tooth at an 18-degree angle, I do not want to do that on a real person the first time!

So, I first practised on a phantom head without a tongue and who doesn’t cry. Then comes the big test – to treat a real person and evaluate their real needs. The variety of resources at Plymouth helps to get you in a good place mentally before treating patients.

The University was the first in the South West to invest in an Anatomage Table. It allows us to virtually ‘peel back’ layers of tissue to reveal underlying structures. We can rotate bodies, zoom in on specific areas and isolate organs for closer examination. Dissection without the blood and guts. Such a great resource!

Multimedia team Dentistry video still
Simulated Dental Learning Environment (SDLE)

Familiar faces help me succeed

I love that I see the same lecturers regularly.

Every member of staff knows you very well. You get to know them too. All so approachable. So friendly. If you are having a problem with a practical skill they will take the time to show you again. They care.

The staff also listen. Having been on a panel that collects student feedback, I have seen, even as quickly as in two weeks, how our suggestions have influenced the programme. To see change like this happen is amazing.

We also get a great collection of guest speakers, where we learn things beyond clinical practice – valuable insights into the business side of the real world.

James Nwaduba
Great Staple tor Dartmoor Devon UK

‘Plymouth-far’ is not far at all

Coming from Croydon in South London, getting from point A to point B can be a long trek.

An hour-plus bus ride got me to sixth form and back every day for two years. And that’s all still in my borough. That’s close to me. So, I’m used to having to make an effort to tie down plans to go places and meet up with friends.

London can feel isolated. You can feel quite alone. I can’t say the same about Plymouth. People say hello. They’re really friendly. There is such a great community feel.

When someone says such and such is a 20-minute train journey away, I’m like ‘that’s not far, that’s only Plymouth-far’, in my experience, it is not far at all.

I love the campus being so central to the city. You can do so much without having to stray too far from its heart. It’s still super nice to explore the little towns, though, and the beaches, too.

Plans can be much looser because so much is so close. I can just message my mates and we can pop off together somewhere in no time. Getting to anywhere is an absolute dream and I’ve been able to explore a fair bit in my time here.

The beauty of doing local dental nursing is I have been sent off all over Cornwall, so I get to experience life in smaller towns as well.

I’ve visited Buckfastleigh. Paignton and Newquay, too. But my favourite spot is Mothecombe beach. Nowhere is really very far, though. Remember, ‘Plymouth-far’ is not far at all!

James Nwaduba
Marina at the Barbican

Living in halls gave me wisdom

I can’t recommend living in halls enough.

When I moved here, I stayed in Gilwell Hall. It is so close to campus. Super easy to make friends, from your neighbours to people across the street.

Coming full circle, I am now a hall volunteer for the Francis Drake Residence Life team. To think back to my first weeks – I was a little lost, quite unsure of what was going on around me – but a few people in my halls helped me settle. Now I’m helping others. Always telling everyone to go to the society fairs, the job fairs, to everything, just so they are open to a variety of opportunities.

To see myself mature from someone who wasn’t always totally switched on, to someone who is now making a difference, makes me super proud.

Francis Drake Hall
James Nwaduba performing at a night club

Using my roots to grow a community

A massive passion for me is music. It’s a great way to unwind.

My friends and I saw a gap in the city for our flavour of hip hop. So, we filled that gap ourselves and Sauce and Vibes club nights were born.

Personally, I’ve moved from creating beats in my bedroom to performing live – including on stage at Pryzm nightclub playing to 500 people – and collaborated on music videos with my friends, one of which has over 20,000 YouTube views.

I’m proud to have brought my Croydon roots down to Plymouth.

As well as rapping, I love gospel music and the choir is another society I am involved with. I was vice-chair last year and used my voice as a halls volunteer to steer first years who would dig the vibe towards it.

One night on duty, I was asked to help an upset first year. After chatting to them, I discovered they loved gospel singing. So, I pointed them our way to the gospel society and they had a good time. Music is an energy that brings communities together.

This is what’s so great about Plymouth, they have loads of clubs and societies set up, but if anyone thinks of something that isn’t, the University supports you to go and start it up yourself.

My friends have done it and it’s great to see. One in their first year liked gospel music, but there wasn’t a club. So, she started one herself, which I joined. I sing for an afro-beat jazz band, too, which is fun.

You won’t always find everything to cater for every taste, that’s why you have to make some of it yourself.  So many societies spring up here at Plymouth because someone has the passion for it.

James Nwaduba

Dear future, I’m ready

I’m happy my next few years are mapped out for me.

When I graduate, there is a further year of study to complete if I want to work for the NHS. Then, another additional year if I want to work in a hospital or further specialise. A Royal College of Surgeons exam is available to take, too.

I plan to do all three. By the end of six years of study, I’ll know where my strengths are and the areas I may not want to pursue.

As I get closer to achieving my goal of becoming a dentist, I’m determined to make the most of every moment at Plymouth.