Timothy Vella Briffa
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Timothy Vella Briffa

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What is your name and what is your official
designation within the Ministry for Health?
My name is Timothy Vella Briffa and I was as a Registrar for Specialist Training in Oral Surgery.

Where do you work and what do your dut
ies entail?
I work within the Dental Department at Mater Dei Hospital, and my duties entail:
  • ​Treating dental/oral-related emergencies both during working hours and out-of-hours

  • Participating in oral medicine and surgery consultation clinics

  • Attending to dental/oral-related issues for inpatients
  • Performing oral surgery under local anaesthesia, general anaesthesia and intravenous sedation

  • Provide professional support and training for junior members of staff

  • Liaising with other medical specialities to provide the best care for our patients

How long have you been working with the Public Service?
5 years in the United Kingdom and currently 2 and a half years in Malta.

Are there any specific qualifications required for your post?
An undergraduate degree in dental surgery along with a post-graduate dental degree at MQF level 7 (post-graduate certificate, diploma or MSc). A certain number of years of relevant post-graduate experience in the field of oral surgery are also required.

What attracted you to take up your profession and to the health service?
Working in the Public Service gives you a broad exposure to a variety of cases that you may not see elsewhere. It provides you with the opportunity to learn from this exposure. Such exposure is also attained by observing others as they work and by discussing cases with your peers. In my particular case the Public Service gave me the opportunity to specialize in the field of oral surgery.

What motivates you most?
Being in a position to help people who are in need, especially vulnerable patients.

What about the teamwork between different professions/roles involved in relation to patient care?
This is one of the biggest advantages in working in the Public Service. We have the opportunity to liaise with doctors who work in a variety of different medical specialties, enabling us to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. This also serves as a great learning tool for myself.

Can you give us one challenge and one success story?
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a dental professional. Not only has it disrupted our daily service, but it has forced us to change the way we approach patient contact, from consultations to the operative treatment itself. We currently have to deal with an ever-growing waiting list of urgent surgery that has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. As dentists we are at a particularly high risk for exposure to the virus so this is of concern to the staff and also our loved ones at home.

With regards to a success story, we had a young boy who presented at our department with an abnormally loose tooth. Given the abnormal presentation we took prompt action to investigate further and unfortunately it turned out that our young patient had a very aggressive tumour affecting his jaw. Working with our colleagues in the departments of medical imaging, pathology and oncology we came to a diagnosis and administered the treatment our patient needed in a timely fashion. During my last contact with this patient I was very happy to see him progressing very well. Thankfully we live in a country with easy access to very high-quality medical treatment which we should not take for granted.

What advice would you give to young students considering taking up this profession?
To anyone considering following a career in healthcare – it is a very rewarding profession and I highly recommend it. Healthcare is one of the few sectors that is, and always will be, in need of staff, even more so during periods of crisis such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It is a vocation and your studies do not end when you are awarded your undergraduate university degree. That is just the beginning. Keep on striving for excellence and push yourselves to keep renewing and building on your knowledge and skills.