Tales of a JCU dentistry student
OzTREKK student Alex D. is no ordinary student. A high school science teacher with a Master of Science in Medicine, Alex decided to pursue dentistry after observing dentists in action. Her passion for learning is evident, right down to her extracurricular and volunteer activities. Find out why Alex chose JCU dentistry!
When did you first discover you’d like to study dentistry?
I first considered dentistry as a career when I was completing the later years of my undergraduate degree. When considering career options, dentistry came up and I thought it was something I would like to try but was not ready to commit to. Upon completing my BSc Honours, I was given the opportunity to pursue a Master of Science in Medicine. While completing my masters, I used some of my spare time to observe and shadow dentists, and wrote the DAT. I put my dental dreams on hold and became a high school science teacher to earn some money to help pay for dental school. After a couple years of teaching I decided I was ready to pursue dentistry as a career.
Why did you choose dentistry at JCU?
I chose JCU Dental School because I like that the university places a strong focus on investigating and helping rural populations. I knew that the school has amazing clinical facilities and access to a great deal of patients and I really liked that JCU begins dental training in the very first semester using state-of-the-art equipment. It was important for me to get a lot of clinical experience and I found out that in the senior years of the JCU dental program students spend an abundance of time in clinics honing their skills. I also learned that JCU students get a great deal of exposure to different urban and rural communities, populations and working facilities, which I like. These experiences mimic on-the-job training and prepare you to work as a dentist immediately upon graduation.
What was your first impression of the dental school and the program?
I was very surprised at how friendly all the instructors and staff are at JCU. We are not a large group and therefore everyone gets the benefit of knowing the professors and administrators very well. I found they are interested in each student’s background, continued success in the program, and our input. There are also senior students who act as mentors, meeting weekly with small groups of first years. I found this time to be very helpful and it made adjusting to the university and specifically the dental program less complicated than I had anticipated.
What are the advantages of choosing JCU dental school?
One advantage is that you get a great deal of hands-on practice. We start getting to know and use dental tools, materials and procedures in the very first year of study. A second advantage is access to state-of-the-art facilities and an amazing clinic with opportunities to help many types of patients. Finally, an advantage over every other university is that you get to live in Cairns. It is a beautiful place with amazing weather, stunning beaches, rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef in your backyard.
JCU is really focused on rural health. Do you see evidence of this in the program?
Yes, I see a rural focus in almost all of our courses. We learn a great deal about the populations we will be serving and how to provide the best possible health care. From outreach, to early dental education, to population studies, JCU Dental School takes a holistic approach to studying dentistry and while they provide a great deal of focus on developing physical skills they also ensure you are a conscientious practitioner who is well informed about the people we serve.
Do you plan to work in a remote/rural/tropical area after graduation?
I can’t say for sure if I will work in a remote/rural/tropical area after graduation because I am still in the early years of the program. What I do know is that during my time at James Cook University, I will take advantage of the opportunities to live and work in these areas so that when I graduate I’ll be able to make an informed decision.
Where are you living and approximately how much do you pay for accommodation?
I live 500 metres from the university in an apartment complex. Many dental students also live in the complex. The apartment has access to great facilities such as a gym and pools. We are close to a shopping centre and various beaches. I pay approximately $160/week in rent for a 2-bedroom 2-bath apartment that I share with another dental student.
What would most Canadians be surprised about concerning Australia and Australian universities?
Most Canadians would be surprised that JCU accepts dental candidates right out of high school and its dental program is 5 years. This is not the same for all Australian universities and is much different from Canadian universities where dentistry is usually taken as a postgraduate option, and the program is shorter in length. Canadians may be surprised to learn there are no board exams upon completion of a dental degree and once graduated (with proper licensing) you can practice anywhere in the country or write the Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) exam and return to practice in Canada.
What other activities do you participate in?
I am the International Student Representative for the JCU Dental Student Association. I volunteer at a local shelter walking dogs. I am an avid road biker and try to take as much advantage of the beautiful surroundings in Cairns as possible.
How did you find out about OzTREKK, and what did you think of our services?
I found out about OzTREKK while doing a Google search for international dental schools. I can’t say enough good things about them. They were so helpful in getting me to Australia and continue to be there every step of the way. OzTREKK answered all of my questions, aided with my paperwork, and made sure I was settled once I arrived in Australia.