5 Minutes with Robert Love

5 Minutes with Robert Love

Head of School of Dentistry and Oral Health at Griffith University

Professor Robert Love, Dean and Head of School of Dentistry and Oral Health, is a specialist endodontist undertaking experimental and clinical endodontics. His prime area of research is the mechanisms involved in colonisation and infection of dentine and molecular aspects of bacterial interactions with substances. Prior to joining Griffith University, Robert Love was in New Zealand at the University of Otago.

What was your first job out of university and how did it shape your future career path? And then how did you transition into academia?

My first job out of university was a dental house surgeon at Auckland Hospital. It was a junior position where you were exposed to lots of different types of dentistry, and also crossed over into medicine. I spent a great amount time at Middlemore Hospital in the plastics and dental unit, where I treated a lot of facial trauma which I really enjoyed doing and was looking to specialise in but I eventually went down a different path.  This early work certainly shaped my practicing philosophy, particularly when it comes to working for government or institutional based care rather than working in the private sector.

During my specialisation course, I became very interested in learning, both personal but also in teaching other students, and particularly in research. Being in the university organisational structure made me really think that being an academic and clinical academic researcher was a good fit for me.

What attracted you to your current role at Griffith University?

I worked my way through the academic levels in New Zealand and had done quite a lot of work outside of the university in the regulatory sphere. I was Chair of the New Zealand Dental Council, which is equivalent to the Dental Board here in Australia. As a result, I was in Australian every month or so, so the country was familiar to me.  From an academic point of view, being a Dean or Head of School was a position I had always aspired to get. I had always liked strategising and developing, setting up the best educational and research programs that’s possible. Then the role at Griffith University came along at the right time.

With all of the changes we are currently seeing in digital health and the development of health technologies, do you think over the next five years this will have a big impact on the dental sector?

I think it’s going to flourish. It’s almost going to be like an explosion, it’s starting to happen now but I think it will start to effect in every clinical area and discipline. I think at the moment we’re at the forefront of what is going to develop and also trying to push a little bit into what might happen in the future.

I think dentistry digital practice/ digital healthcare is going to be massive; from patient consultations through to treatment delivery, it will touch every aspect.

Diversity is also becoming quite a prominent issue, how have you seen the companies and the boards that you’ve worked with evolve and manage this as it’s increasingly becoming more important?

I’ve seen quite a big change coming from New Zealand and also here in Australia as well. Proper recognition of community membership on boards covering all the necessary skillsets and community needs is important for governance, I have noticed this occurring in all the boards I’m on, some are well advanced and others are only just starting. But it is clear to me that it is becoming part of the contemporary governance structure, and I think it will advance quite considerably.

When you’re looking to recruit a senior member of your team, aside from technical skills and experience, are there any key attributes that you would look for in particular?

We look for a team player, someone who’s going to fit in and work well with the team. We also look at diversity whether it’s cultural, ethnic or gender diversity; but the main thing is finding someone who fits into the team and is willing to back themselves but also the larger organisation.

Who do you think has inspired you the most in your career?

The main person would have been my Dean when I was a junior academic. He was very supportive; and had a really good management style that allowed you to develop. If you showed that you wanted to develop, he would enable that. He also knew when things were important and when to not sweat the small stuff.

That was a particularly good learning thing for me, to work out where we should be putting your energy; obviously you have to look at everything, but to be able to really focus on the big picture.

If you were to give advice to people who were looking to become senior academics or senior clinical academics, what would your advice be?

The advice I tend to give people is, be well-focused and know exactly what you need to do to be successful. For example, you’ve got to know what is required to become a senior academic, especially those key parameters and work towards them. Establish what research area you want to move into, have good focus on learning and teaching; understanding the proper teaching methodology, and working in the best way to get well focused outcomes. Finally, you want to make sure you are a team player.

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