From the Middle of (K)nowhere – Winter – to the Middle of Europe – Summer: Back to Alma Mater, My First Day Experiences…

Writer: Szabolcs Felszeghy

I’m so excited to write a short story about the first day of my recent ERASMUS trip. If you’ve been following the VR-Haptic Thinkers on our Website, you’ll know that I’ve gotten to stay at Debrecen again.

However, you might first be interested to know why I visited Debrecen, my Alma Mater.

Let me assure you it was not to escape from winter (-8° Celsius with 40 cm of snow) to arrive to summer (+26 °C), as I personally love the snow and Finnish Lakeland, Kuopio, the Middle of (K)nowhere…

I got to visit the Middle of Europe, Hungary, and more specifically, the beautiful city of Debrecen following an invitation from the dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Debrecen (FD UD). I had the great honor of serving as a VR-haptics instructor for the dental educators and students at my Alma Mater, thanks also to the ERASMUS exchange program.

But what’s this about haptics-reinforced virtual reality based dental education?

We, the VR-Haptic Thinkers, are an international group of professionals, including scientists, dentists, and students from all around the world, who are interested in the application of virtual reality haptic technologies (VR-haptics) in dental education. We aim to advance knowledge on the utility of VR-haptics in preclinical, clinical, and postgraduate dental training, share experimental data, challenges, and solutions, and reinforce collaborative capacity initiatives in education and research. The VR-Haptic Thinkers also engage with universities’ policymakers to extol the benefits of VR-haptics in manual dexterity development and bring together those interested in modern dental education so as to strengthen existing partnerships and extend networking.

Why then did the dean invite someone all the way from the Middle of (K)nowhere?

It is because, since the spring this year, the students of FD UD, Debrecen, Hungary, have been able to improve their manual dexterity and skills with VR-haptic dental trainers at their DEnt Skill Lab! FD UD was the first in the country to purchase special VR-haptic dental simulation systems (Simodont® by Nissin) that support both dental and postgraduate education. As they are a fresh player in this field – VR-haptics-reinforced dental training – the dean, Kinga Bágyi, invited me to share our UEF experiences with them to facilitate an easier start…

I was very happy to accept her invitation and I must say it was one heck of an experience. I am incredibly honored and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be in this role. It absolutely blew me away to meet old friends, brainstorm with dental educators, and train the new generations of students with Simodont® VR-Haptic Dental Trainers.

AND HERE the real story begins… On the morning of the first day, I didn’t really have an established plan before meeting the dean, so I had a little wander towards the Great Forest at the heart of Debrecen, a 10-minute walk from the campus. The first thing I saw once I got to the banks of the small artificial lake inside the forest was birds: wild ducks with their ducklings.

A duck on water.

I was lucky with the weather whilst walking (+25° Celsius) and it was just a glorious place to take in the scenery and enjoy the sunshine and tulips.

Tulips in a park.

Getting closer to the campus, one of the most prominent buildings along the Great Forest is the main building of the University of Debrecen.

Flowers, a building in the background.

It truly is an incredible piece of architecture and worth seeing up close and inside.

Inner court of building.

It is a moving tribute and most definitely something you need to visit whilst in Debrecen. After visiting the main building, I headed over to the campus grounds which was a short 15-minute walk away to the Faculty of Dentistry. I was thoroughly impressed as there were so many international students around, sitting outside the banks and chairs of the bars for free style studying… Spring has truly swung fully there… Via walking, I probably spent some extra time to enjoy the feeling of the sun there. Albeit I wouldn’t have minded even more basking in the sun, I had to be at the dean’s office by 10 AM.

After a brainstorming session, I immediately jumped into the deep end as from early afternoon we started on our common journey on the VR-haptic avenue with the highly motivated first-year handpiece-naïve students.

Students on microscopes.
A man giving a talk.

Am I glad I went for it and took on the guiding role?

The short answer is: “Absolutely”! Looking back – I am quite proud of everything we accomplished at the dental faculty and can now appreciate all the lessons learned, all the successes achieved together, and the reputation I had been able to build in the field of VR-haptics-supported dental education. Without trying to come across as arrogant, I truly believe I had a great impact on the handpiece-naïve students, and with the support of my team, was able to revolutionize the way the dental educators operate, boosting the benefits of VR-haptics.

It was a helluva experience. Once again, I am incredibly honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to be in an advisory role, thanks to the invitation from the dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Debrecen.

Working on computer in a plane.

THANK YOU, Debrecen, THANK YOU, UEF and ERASMUS! Szabi, out!

Writer: Szabolcs Felszeghy, University Teacher, University of Eastern Finland, School of Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine.