Home' News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin May 2016 Contents COVER STORY
hot and cramped?" Dr Tran says. "The thing
about volunteering is the need is greater
than the supply. So even if you go, you
need to be prepared to not be able to treat
every single problem you see."
Dr Tiana Melo Howard of Geelong was a
volunteer with the Kimberley Dental Group
in WA's Halls Creek in the final stages of her
dental studies, and completed a second
assignment. "Going into volunteering, you
have to be pretty open-minded about what
you are about to see," Dr Melo Howard says.
"You just have to remember to change
your expectations of yourself and what you
can do. So much of what you can achieve
and what you get out of it comes down
to the flexibility of your beliefs and your
BEST PRACTICE PROCEDURES
Dr Owen says the team's approach to
best practice procedures in a remote
community is no different to what he does
in his Perth clinic.
"What is important is the structure and
the team environment," Dr Owen says. "To
be one person among a team of skilled
specialists working in difficult situations
can be empowering.
"There is a lot of nurturing that goes on,
so that when the X-ray machine is not
working, we look at what are the options.
We have a motto; we give them the
confidence to get into trouble, but we also
give them the confidence to get out of
Practising in a remote community or in
a third world setting does not, adds Dr
Robertson, equate to second-rate approach
The career-building experience that volunteering
affords the student dentist or recent graduate can be
invaluable in the early phase of their careers.
"Within a two week volunteering project, the young
dentist would probably do as much clinical work as they
do in an entire term in dental school in Australia," Dr Jamie
Robertson says. "It gives them an intensive clinical training."
Volunteering in a location a world away from what they
are comfortable with can also help provide the young
practitioner with indispensable new skills.
"Volunteering gets them to interact with people
who may be from a range of tough circumstances,"
Dr John Owen says. "It's a completely different set of
patients than most students have previously seen. That
opportunity to engage with just about every member of
society is an essential."
Dr Thuy Tran recalls the three volunteer projects she
was a part of marked an important change in how she
approached her career.
"Volunteering forced me to see the bigger picture --
about how I fit into this world as a dental profession,"
Dr Thuy says. "It also taught me that knowledge
and behaviours we assume to be normal might be
completely foreign in other cultures."
"Just because you are in a place where you
may not have all the facilities you have in
your clinic back home, it does not mean you
ever abandon your principles," he says. "You
still have to think about infection controls
and using all your materials in the best way."
Adopting a more resourceful approach
towards a patient treatment was one
of the most valuable experiences for Dr
Tiana Melo Howard during her time on the
Kimberley Dental Team. "You have to think
outside the square and figure it out," she
"We were often faced with a situation
where you consider what needs to be
achieved with the available materials. It
is a matter of adapting in the way you do
things, and yet always achieving the best
outcome for the patient."
SENSE AND SENSIBILITIES
In the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in
Asia, when over 21 countries sent medical
teams into affected areas, Dr Knott was
stationed in Phuket, Thailand. He recalls
he saw some of the greatest examples of
outstanding volunteer medical care -- and
some of the worst.
"There were people who just bulldozed
their way through the locals, telling them
everything they were doing was wrong -- it
caused such problems," Dr Knott says. "You
have to be so careful not to come charging
in like the Great White Knight, promising to
fix everything. You need to remember you
are there to help the situation, not to take
over it -- and that is a big difference."
A volunteer needs to learn methods
to work in with the local practitioners,
24 | ADA NEWS BULLETIN | MAY 2016
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