Below is profile of a Dental Student at UQ. He wished to remain anonymous but has kindly shared his thoughts with MSO.
Please tell us a little about where you are up to
I’m in my 3rd year of dental science (BDSc III) at the University of Queensland (UQ). I’m an undergraduate student and enrolled in the course immediately after Grade 12 (ie. no gap year taken).
How did you go about deciding to study dentistry?
There were quite a few fields I thought were interesting during the later stages of high school, including: medicine, law and dentistry. However, I ultimately chose dentistry because I thought it was the career that fit in well with my life goals. Dentistry offers the chance to make a significant difference to people’s quality of life in the community, whilst also being very lifestyle-friendly and leaving plenty of time to pursue outside interests. The work involved is quite engaging and hands-on, with the day-to-day casemix variable enough to ensure that the occupation is rarely repetitive. There is also substantial earning potential, with private practice and specialisation offering quite lucrative financial incentives.
What have you enjoyed so far about dentistry?
I have thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the practical component of work. Although challenging and unintuitive at times, it’s quite satisfying to finally perfect your technique at several procedures and eventually discharge a happy patient. Patient interaction is also quite enjoyable, and helps you appreciate the ‘real’ aspect of the job – creating better smiles on real people, and being able to notice the visible improvements. Some of the theoretical components of the course are also quite interesting, allowing a fundamental insight into numerous physiological processes ocurring within the mouth. Ultimately though, it is the people you spend the overwhelming majority of your five years with that make or break the course. The student body here at UQ is definitely second-to-none. Not only are the cohorts very tight-knit, excellent organisation allows the hosting of frequent social activities and parties, with quite good inter-year communication, to pass on old notes, exam Q & A’s etc.
What are some of the challenges about being a student in this area?
It’s initially quite daunting to have come from an environment where you were an outstanding student, to one wherein you find yourself decidedly middle-of-the-road (think of it as ‘big fish in little pond’ vs ‘big fish in massive pond’). Owing to the advanced capability of the cohort, lecturers really do pile the information on top of you, and if you don’t keep up with reading and reviewing lecture material, you can easily find yourself desperately cramming a few nights before a major 50%+ exam… Also, the constant flurry of practical work is quite testing of one’s manual dexterity, although the clinical staff do their best to try and introduce you to new concepts in a step-wise manner and are always there to lend a helping hand. Balancing university and personal life can also be a tad difficult, with many students finding it hard to hold down a part-time job in addition to the increased workload of 3rd and 4th year.
What are your other interests? Do you get time to pursue these activities?
My interests outside of dentistry would be attending music festivals, reading, video games and playing soccer. Time spent on these hobbies during the semester is quite limited, with very few festivals or soccer games. Reading and video games are obviously a lot easier to sneak in on most afternoons… Thankfully, the mid-semester, end of semester and end-of-year holidays offer plenty of time to catch up with all of these things =)
Plans for the future?
Well, I’d hopefully like to graduate and commence work in private practice, possibly in the rural area where I was raised (from 8-15yo). This is because rural areas offer a chance to earn a significantly higher income and also to hone your technical skills further than metropolitan area (as you are forced to undertake a lot of difficult cases yourself, rather than simply refer them on to specialists). After 2-3 years, I would be interested in working a short stint overseas, possibly in the US or Canada. However, due to having not researched qualification recognition or immigration laws of either country, I’m still very much open to anything…
Do you have any advice for prospective denistry students?
Research the entrance requirements of every possible dental school you’re eligible to enrol for, then buckle down and really study hard (be it at school/uni/umat) to maximise your marks and hence chances of getting in. Also, think very hard about which dental school is best for you. Unlike the mainly public sector of medicine, it is quite arguable that the university you graduate from can have an impact on employability, especially with the recent increase in Australian graduates.