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UBC Reports | Vol. 46 | No. 20 | December 14, 2000

Everything from A to Zed

Christopher Zed has to be one of busiest people in Dentistry

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Forget solar power, nuclear power and harnessing raging rivers -- the Faculty of Dentistry has discovered its own unique energy source.

His name is Christopher Zed.

He is the manager of the UBC Dental Clinic which sees more than 32,000 patients annually; the director of Postgraduate and External Studies; the director of Specialty Clinics; and the head of Hospital Programs.

He is also a painter, a marathon runner, a skier, a piano player and a kayaker who clearly thrives on what he describes as "a huge busy life."

A faculty member since 1995, Zed initially set his sights on the business world and obtained an MBA from the University of Toronto in 1990. A desire to work with people took him back to his alma mater, Dalhousie University, to complete a degree in Dentistry followed by a residency in hospital dentistry.

Raised in Saint John, N.B., as one of seven children, Zed added his degrees to the family total of 23 professional degrees.

"We're very driven in my family," he admits.

Driven maybe, but not driven crazy.

"I don't feel all that stressed," says the 34-year-old. "I try to lead by example and enable the team. That's really important to me -- if I am successful it's because the team is successful."

Much of Zed's experience in teamwork was developed during his hospital residency at the UBC Hospital site of Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre.

Dental patients seen in hospital are often medically compromised and present with challenging and complicated problems. Zed became accustomed to working with a variety of consultants to ensure the patient's overall health was considered when planning dental treatment.

His work in hospital dentistry also re-inforced Zed's interest in expanding dental education to include treating medically complex and underserved populations.

"I want students to have an understanding of all populations -- people who may have vastly different social, sexual or financial backgrounds than the student's," he says. "That's where they can really broaden their scope of learning."

Research, education and service are Zed's touchstones for making decisions. It's not surprising, therefore, that he is involved in UBC's activities in the Downtown Eastside which seek to provide resources to Vancouver's underserved inner-city community.

Residents have identified their needs and Zed and undergraduate students will be volunteering dental services starting next month as part of a project managed by the area's Portland Hotel Society.

Using a model of service learning, students will get hands-on experience treating complex dental health problems that they might not encounter at the dental clinic on campus.

Haida Gwaii is another area where Zed sees opportunities for UBC dental students to learn and work in satellite clinics.

Working with Health Canada and Faculty of Dentistry Assoc. Prof. Rosamund Harrison and the assistant dean of Clinical Affairs Lex MacNeil, Zed aims to build a 12-month residency program in community-based dentistry.

Dental residents could provide specialty and pediatric care locally for patients that now require airlifting to centres on the mainland for treatment.

Zed says he's always thinking 10 years down the road. His plan for Haida Gwaii in the next decade includes using the faculty's strengths in information technology to develop tele-health services for the area that would include digital radiography and on-line consulting.

Thinking two years down the road is all that's required when he considers one of his biggest challenges -- the clinic's move to a new building.

The new 2,700-square-metre addition to the north of the J.B. Macdonald Building will: add 20 additional workstations to the existing 96, improve sterilization measures and ability to control infection in waterlines and work surfaces; and improve technological capacity.

Designers are also taking into account the ergonomics of dental practice, an emerging issue for individuals who do their work on the small oral cavity from above and behind while reaching for instruments and using a computer -- all in a space not much bigger than a car interior.

"New technologies and new demands on dentists for a greater scope of oral health care mean students require more knowledge and support than ever before -- this new facility allows us to deliver what they need," says Zed.

It's a big agenda that requires big energy. But Zed has more than sheer energy going for him. McNeil describes his colleague as funny, dedicated and very focused on what he believes in.

Luckily, one of the things he believes in is balance -- every day he takes what he calls his "prescription run."

"That's my own time to download," he says. " I figure out a lot of things while I run."

A portable sport is how he describes it, which is important for a man who logs thousands of kilometres a year in business trips.

He completed his first marathon in May of this year in Ottawa and describes the experience as amazing. He plans to do the New York marathon next.

A kayaker since arriving in B.C. in 1994, he also loves to golf, play tennis, hike the Grouse Grind and ski.

And it's not just sports that provide relief from what he calls the organized chaos of clinic life.

Many nights Zed can be found playing just about everything from Bach to rock and roll on a piano in a converted garden house on his property. With most of his family playing the instrument as kids, he recalls that they actually wore out the family piano and had to replace the hammers.

A self-confessed "Maritime music freak" Zed says if he were to give up his job tomorrow he would become a professional piano player.

Or maybe an artist.

He took up watercolour painting as an adult. He does abstract and impressionist work and is currently working on paintings of petroglyphs he saw while hiking on a volcano in Hawaii.

So what is the fuel for this human energy source?

"I like to continually raise the bar," he says. "I get energized by being part of a team, by giving service and by reaching the goals I've set."

Fortunately for the Faculty of Dentistry, Chris Zed seems to be one energy source that won't run out.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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