The Flexible Learning Advisory Group


The Flexible Learning Advisory Group (FLAG) was the  inspiration of its first Chair Dr. Cecil Linehan, whose enthusiasm and drive  continues to motivate the program even as she steps down in favour of Professor  Phillip Dowell.

The 2010 Maastricht  meeting challenged us regarding continuing education (CE) and humanitarian aid.  The FLAG group advised on the ICD’s future in this regard with many Fellows offering  further help  for the CE drive and its  relationship with UDente (Universal Dental e-learning), as well as their humanitarian  aid services.

Although humanitarian and CE projects can be separated,  it is equally conceivable to consider CE as part of humanitarian aid in as much  as it improves both knowledge and standards of care in middle and low income  countries.


Udente can be delivered via the internet in areas  where the infrastructure permits, where there is a local resource network, and  dental educators with distance learning expertise.  Dr. Paul Becker requested linking Odessa’s Institute  of Stomatology and the ICD in terms of distance learning and Udente.  Today, clear knowledge and insight into the  educational set-up is vital (e.g., student number and training level) for  tailoring our aid to suit their needs.

Other suggested projects include the established link  between Italy and Ethiopia with  Professor Corrado Paganelli and Professor Peter Owen’s request for the ICD to  act as an ambassador for improving standards within some of the African Dental  Schools.

Which project should the ICD support, what form should  that support take and how can the ICD support the learning objectives vital to  the success of Udente?  All of these questions  were asked. Professor Pat Reynolds at   Kings  College, London is developing  a short support course entitled,  ‘How Do  You Do E-learning’ which could, with appropriate funding, be delivered to ICD  Fellows, encouraging and enabling them to contribute to CE resources or other  targeted topic areas, such as building the Udente library.

Alternative  Ways of Promoting Distance Learning

Alternative learning methods are achievable by sending  learning objects via CD-ROMs, as was done in Nepal.  Although appreciated,  this is a costly process with a limited number  of benefactors.  This highlights the  importance of accurately assessing educational requirements, possessing good  local contacts and having correct infrastructure in order to ensure that aid is  utilized in the best manner. The process should be audited to assess the  education and practical impact and the costs analysed, so that strategic  decisions can be made.  Nevertheless,  this learning curve will lead to further investigation that may elucidate more  ways of using this material.

Humanitarian Projects

Professor W. Van Palenstein Helderman agreed to act as  an advisor to the ICD on humanitarian projects.   It may be possible, indeed necessary, for the ICD to join forces with dental  non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Dentaid. The real need is for  programs that are primarily preventative and, if treatment-based, should  comprise basics, such as dealing with major oral disease or extractions, if  unavoidable and if restorative should be limited to modern minimalist  intervention, as published by the World Health organizations (WHO) basic oral  care package.

Enthusiasm for humanitarian project involvement should  be applauded but ‘volunteer tourism’ does not necessarily serve a needy  population more than temporarily.

In terms of the wider umbrella of humanitarian aid,  these projects must be simple, sustainable, cost effective, and population-based  with defined objectives and a local dependable project co-ordinator.  The FLAG Committee has some big decisions to  make and will ultimately need the help and resources of every ICD Fellow.


FLAG Committee Members

  • Dr.  Phillip Dowell (Surrey, England) Chair
  • Dr.  Frans Kroon (The Netherlands)
  • Dr.  Cecil Linehan (Ireland)
  • Dr.  Isobel Madden (Scotland),
  • Dr.  Hubert Newman (England)
  • Dr.  Peter Owen (Johannesburg  RSA)
  • Dr.  Corrado Paganelli (Italy)
  • Dr.  Pat Reynolds (London)
  • Dr.  Dov Sydney (Israel)
  • Dr. Walter van Driel (The Netherlands)
  • Dr.  Richard Vaughan (England)
  • Dr. W.Van Palenstein Helderman, Advisor