Coming from an artistic family, it was no surprise that Rachel Jackson became a medical illustrator – but today, she is studying dentistry and combining all of her passions.
Through her studies Rachel has found an outlet for her artwork within the dental industry, where each piece hopes to tell a story. She aims to educate patients and students about dental treatments and procedures as well as boosting her own understanding of her patients’ stories.
One aspect of the trainee dentist’s studies at the Institute of Dentistry Aberdeen is how dentists can use art and creativity to better treat patients and enhance students learning.
She explained: “Art is a vehicle for us to connect with patients in a less clinical and less stressful way for both participants. This can be through creative workshops that aim to better transition graduates into clinicians and lifelong learners which impacts positively on patient care.”
However, in the beginning Rachel – who works part-time at Andrew Scott Dental Care in Aberdeen as a dental hygiene/therapist – struggled with applying her artistic skills to her course and admits she was going to quit after six months.
She revealed: “I had found it difficult to maintain my creativity, feeling lost to science whilst processing a huge amount of theory. I had to approach my learning a little differently. I began to condense the theory into one image (Endo Jelly, pictured above). I could close my eyes and remember the elements of that image to spark my memory during an exam.
“This is InfoArt and was the same approach that I would take as a medical illustrator, as my job was to convey lots of information to the public in a concise way through diagrams. This was the first time I appreciated art for education.”
Now, through what she calls “visual note-taking”, Rachel’s precision drawing has enhanced her drilling skills while art is also boosting the dentist/patient relationship in practice. She said that it “improves dexterity, spatial awareness and sensory feedback” which means dental tools and equipment are used precisely and gently.
She added: “Art helps connect us to human emotions and behaviours which improves communication skills and patient support. As a dental hygiene/therapist I am an educator, so this is primarily what I bring to the team. I try to make change and stabilise disease. This helps achieve an essential healthy foundation before implants, crowns, bridges and orthodontics are provided.”
More recently, Rachel’s university has stopped all face-to-face teaching – while Andrew Scott Dental Care has temporarily ceased treating patients during lockdown – so she went back home to Inverness to spend quality time with her family, completing her university course work online and has worked on her artwork, including an exciting new project.
Rachel has just won a major commission from the British Dental Journal which will see the North East dental student illustrate 12 front covers of the publication to commemorate 100 years of the British Dental Library.
Rachel added: “It’s an absolute dream commission for me. It is a lovely six-month project running from mid-June until late November. Each edition will see me illustrate a piece of literature that has influenced dentistry over the last 100 years.
“If you can find a job that is also your passion, it means you get up every day and want to work. I feel very lucky to be doing what I am doing.”
But she very much misses the patients at Andrew Scott Dental Care – and using the drill!
Rachel added: “I love using the dental drill, creating structures and using materials; it is akin to creating artwork in many ways”
“Yet what gives me the greatest fulfilment is being able to make a positive impact on another person. To be able to do that is an honour. Studying dentistry is very tough at times. Treating patients is both a physical and mental challenge but it is a privilege none the less.
“The messages from patients – thank you notes from times when you have treated them well and supported them through their worries – make it worthwhile. The job of a dentist is not always about teeth, it is about care firstly and we provide that in many ways.”
Next year, Rachel hopes to graduate and is already working towards an innovative art exhibition that hopes to raise public awareness of the importance of dental health and wellbeing.
Andrew Scott, practice principal, said: “Rachel is very talented as an artist and will be equally talented as a dentist. She has a fabulous way with educating and treating patients and this is increasingly important in dentistry. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”
*You can follow Rachel on Instagram or Facebook: @rjmedink and the BDJ series using #bdalibrary100 and for more information on Andrew Scott Dental Care, click here.