Dr Jim Rennie, who has died aged 71, transformed dental education in Scotland, Margie Taylor explains how.
He made a significant contribution to addressing the crisis in NHS dental provision in the early part of the new century.
The abiding memory of Jim, for many, will be his wonderful sense of humour, the twinkle in his eye and the accompanying raucous laughter; however his sense of fun, never far from the surface, belied the seriousness with which he took the important things in life.
Jim was a proud Coatbridge man who never forgot his Lanarkshire heritage.
His father, the local dentist, encouraged him into the profession and he graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1972.
Choosing to specialise in oral pathology, and having completed his PhD, he became a respected academic working for over 20 years in one of the busiest head and neck pathology units in the UK.
Jim soon took the opportunity to combine his clinical work with his love of education lecturing at Glasgow Dental School. He went on to inspire several generations of students.
He was renowned for memorising every student’s name from their photograph prior to meeting them. As any undergraduate knows, the prospect of being singled out by name in a lecture significantly concentrates the mind.
This was one of the many indications of the efforts Jim made to get the best out of his students. His interest in the effectiveness of education drove much of his career.
Later he was to extend his influence. Regionally at first, to the west of Scotland, culminating in his appointment as postgraduate dental Dean for Scotland in 1999.
In addition to this post, in 2004 he was appointed deputy chief executive for NHS Education Scotland.
Jim also served on the General Dental Council contributing to review groups and standing committees.
Real world of dentistry
Soon after he became postgraduate dental dean the full extent of the crisis in dental provision became a common feature of newspaper headlines.
Working with the government in Scotland along with many colleagues, Jim set about addressing the problem.
He was a strong advocate for improving the quality of patient care. He would brook no argument to the contrary.
The support he provided in the development of high-quality guidance for the profession and the public is a lasting legacy in Scotland and beyond. The numbers of dentists he helped to attract from abroad to improve service levels had an enormous impact.
Jim was an outstanding strategist and testament to this are the many initiatives that have stood the test of time.
He ensured that new opportunities were given to clinical students to prepare them better for practice. Whilst also applying academic rigour to piloting new systems.
He led the introduction of satisfactory completion of vocational training for newly qualified dentists. The first in the UK but now routine across the four nations.
Jim provided outreach opportunities across Scotland for senior clinical students to prepare them for the ‘real world’ of general dental practice. Whilst also giving them an opportunity to work in more rural sites. Such as Campbeltown and Stornoway, as well as urban areas that needed improved access to care.
These teach and treat centres, 17 in total, have become the ‘jewel in the crown’ of university dental teaching programmes across the country.
Rural and urban challenges
Jim was sensitive to the requirement of clinicians working in remote and rural areas. He encouraged postgraduate education designed for their particular challenges.
As the crisis developed, and the need for more dentists was recognised in the north of Scotland, he joined the team charged with establishing a new dental school for Aberdeen.
His dynamism and determination helped ensure that it was opened in record time. And the local population benefited from increased services.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution, Jim was appointed CBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to dentistry and had two educational facilities – in Glasgow and Inverness – named after him.
Away from work, Jim was a keen, competent and highly competitive sportsman.
He excelled in golf, playing at his local course in Elie, often in a family foursome with Ann and the boys; he was also a proud member of the R&A.
In his younger day he was a county squash player, but his real passion was fishing for salmon. This brought with it wonderful, deep friendships and the associated fun he so valued as he travelled all over the world.
Jim’s favourite river in Scotland however, was the Naver, where he spent many happy weeks with family and friends. The salmon knew to beware whenever Jim and his team were at work!
After retiring from the NHS, Jim concentrated his life in Elie with his dog Ebony enjoying the company of his family and close friends.
Jim Rennie married his beloved Ann Campbell in 1976. She and their daughter Samantha predeceased him. He is survived by sons Gavin and David and his five grandchildren, all of whom he was very proud.
Jim Rennie, born 22 May 1949, died 11 July 2020.