Professor Ario Santini FCGDent has been awarded the College Medal, the College’s most prestigious honour. 

Prof Santini being presented with the certificate formalising his award by outgoing College President, Dr Abhi Pal

Reserved for no more than one recipient per year, the College Medal is awarded for exceptional service to the dental profession and its patients in a manner aligned with the values and mission of the College. Professor Santini has received the award in recognition of his considerable contributions to postgraduate dental education and dental research, including through the College and the former FGDP, during a career spanning more than half a century.

After graduating BDS from the University of Edinburgh in 1966, he studied statistics for a further year, and was a House Officer at Edinburgh Dental Hospital. He was then a general dental practitioner (GDP) in the Lothian region, and partner in a mixed NHS-and-private practice in Edinburgh, for 33 years, and was one of the first GDPs to engage in and publish practice-based research outcomes. For fifteen of these years, he was also a visiting dentist for the Scottish Prison Service, and for ten he was a Clinical Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, in restorative dentistry and latterly also forensic medicine, at the University of Edinburgh. He was also the first GDP to obtain the DDS degree by thesis from Edinburgh, and later completed a Diploma in Forensic Medicine from the University of Glasgow and a PhD from the University of Nijmegen.

He was a Council member of the Lothian Area Dental Committee for over ten years, including a period of service as Chair, as well as a member of Lothian Health Board and Chair of its General Dental Practitioners sub-committee. He has also served on committees for the National Association of Prison Dentistry, the Oral & Dental Speciality Group of the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme.

For almost 20 years, he served the British Dental Association in a number of local, regional and national roles including election to the Scottish Council, the General Dental Services Committee and the Presidency of the East of Scotland Branch.

A founding member of the FGDP, he has been involved with the Faculty, now College, ever since. He achieved the Diploma in General Dental Practice in 1992 and Fellowship in 2010, was appointed to the Faculty Academy in 2020, and is now a Fellow of CGDent.

A member of the Faculty Board for many years, he served on the External Affairs and Quality Control committees and was elected Vice Dean. He also established the FGDP Research Committee, and as Chair for six years was the driving force behind numerous lectures, study days and other initiatives. He was also co-author of the Faculty’s Introduction to research for primary dental care clinicians guidance, which remains available through the College, and which he has recently updated and expanded (together with Professor Kenneth Eaton FCGDent) into a comprehensive 300 page guide. Most recently, he was co-author of The history of the College of General Dentistry: the formation of the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners, which was published in the Dental Historian.[1]

He was also a co-organiser for the Scottish Council for Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education of MGDS exam preparation courses, a lecturer in endodontics and research methodology to Vocational Trainees, a scholarship assessor for the British Society of General Dental Surgery, examiner for the MJDF and MGDS, Honorary Professor at the University of Belgrade and a Visiting Professor at the University of Sassari.

For over a decade he was Director of Biomaterial Research at the Edinburgh Postgraduate Dental Institute, lecturing in research methodology and statistics to postgraduate MSc and PhD students and supervising MClinDent and PhD projects, and for four of these he was also a visiting lecturer in research methodology for undergraduate veterinary students.

From 2010 until his retirement in 2022, he was Professor of Postgraduate Medical Studies at the University of Târgu Mureș, Romania, where he developed and led a course in research methodology for medical students studying for MSc and PhD degrees.

He has been awarded Fellowships of the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow, the Academy of Dental Materials, the Academy of Facial Aesthetics and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Edinburgh, and has received Life Membership of the British Dental Association and the prestigious Doctor Honoris Causa from the George Emil Palade University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Science, and Technology. 

He is also a primary author of three books and over 200 published papers and abstracts, and has been a peer reviewer and editorial board member for a wide range of academic journals. He was among those who created the FGDP’s Primary Dental Care journal, and later Primary Dental Journal, which is still published quarterly by the College. Setting out the latest evidence in the evolving art and science of general dentistry, these journals have formed the intellectual backbone of the Faculty and College, complementary to its guidance and standards publications, through 120 issues to date over 30 years – and in his role as Research Editor, Prof Santini has contributed to every one.

A certificate formalising the award of the College Medal was presented to Prof Santini at the CGDent Fellows’ Summer Reception, which was held at Cutler’s Hall in London on Thursday 20 June. The College has deferred the casting of medals pending grant of a Coat of Arms, which is expected soon. Previous winners (including of the preceding Faculty Medal) were Shelagh Farrell, Mike Mulcahy, Nikolaus Palmer, Professor Ken Eaton, Ian Mills and Andrew Hadden.

Dr Abhi Pal, who conferred the award in one of his final duties as President of the College, said:

“Ario is an extraordinarily committed and accomplished colleague whose contributions to supporting the provision of high quality oral healthcare have been significant and exceptional. The College Medal is the highest honour we bestow, and it is my privilege to be able to confer upon him this most deserved recognition of his remarkable career, and of his record of service to the Faculty, College and profession as a whole.”

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[1] Gordon E, Santini A, Wilson N. The history of the College of General Dentistry: the formation of the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners. Dental Historian, 2024 69 (1) 7-15.