Our Entrepreneurs: Zehra Yonel

In our latest #OurEntrepreneurs profile we meet cohort 6 Clinical Entrepreneur Zehra Yonel, a Clinical Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am an experienced academic with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. I am skilled in clinical dentistry, in particular the speciality area of periodontology. 

I am a Clinical Lecturer and Specialist Registrar in Restorative Dentistry at the School of Dentistry in the University of Birmingham. I am midway through a programme of work for my PhD, funded by the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) and Diabetes UK, as part of the Doctoral Research Fellowship (DRF).  My research interests lie in the fields of epidemiology and the interface between oral and systemic diseases. I am also a calibrated assessor of dental indices used in clinical studies. 

Name: Zehra Yonel, NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Cohort 6

Occupation: Clinical Lecturer

My clinical training is in the field of restorative dentistry, encompassing periodontics, endodontics and prosthodontics. I am also responsible for supervising BDS students undertaking treatments on clinic and I deliver teaching to BDS, Hygiene and Therapy as well as Nursing students. This teaching takes the form of lectures, tutorials and small-group teaching. I also leads on the “plaque project” and “cross sectional study” which are two research related modules within the BDS undergraduate programme. 

Why did you apply to the programme and what are you looking forward to? 

I was signposted to the programme by a colleague who felt it was a good fit. I decided to apply as it felt like a great opportunity to meet like-minded people passionate about improving the NHS for patients and staff. 

I’m looking forward expanding my network and meeting likeminded people who may be able to support me in achieving my goal. 

Tell us about your innovation  

My research is related to utilising dental care professionals to improve not only the oral but also the systemic health of their patients.  

Dental care professionals already deliver preventative advice related to risk factors such as smoking and reducing sugar intake and as well as how patients may improve their diet. Dental care professionals also assess patients for periodontitis (gum disease), which is known to have a bi-directional association with type 2 diabetes.  

We know that 60% of the UK population see a dental care professional annually. Importantly up to 20% of these will not have visited their GP in that same time frame. We also know that people present to their dentist when they perceive themselves to be healthy (i.e. are asymptomatic) compared to seeing their GP when they have symptoms or feel unwell.  

Once symptomatic it is often too late to instigate primary prevention measures and thus we may be missing an opportunity to identify conditions early and implement lifestyle changes and prevention programmes which may result in improving both the oral and systemic health of the population.  

I have developed a risk algorithm which uses dental variables to identify those patients within dental settings who may have undiagnosed non-diabetic hyperglycaemia / type 2 diabetes. I have also undertaken some qualitative research to gain insight into patient and dental teams views and I have undertaken a prospective study to validate the risk-assessment process on a UK population.  

My idea is to use this risk-assessment process in the dental setting and develop integrated care pathways such that once a patient is identified as being at high-risk there are clear onward referral pathways for the patient to be supported in primary / secondary prevention (through programmes such as the diabetes prevention programme) and for close inter-professional working between primary care dental and medical services to ensure a patient centered holistic approach is in place to support the patient improve their health and well-being. 

What motivates you?  

Improving population health. Ensuring patients have access to integrated health care service with patients at the centre. A more holistic approach to healthcare that empowers patients to manage their own health needs and provides them with the support they need to do so. 

How can we find out more?

For more information please contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Published by Lucy Dentice

Deputy Programme Manager for the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme.