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Prestigious training opportunity for JCU Dentistry grad

Thu, 13 Jan 2022
Categories: Alumni.

Drs Matthew and Peter Vaughan Drs Matthew and Peter Vaughan

JCU Dentistry alumnus, Dr Matthew Vaughan is a testament to where the degree can take you. After serving as a Dental Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, Dr Vaughan has now commenced specialty orthodontic training at the prestigious King’s College London.

Graduating in 2018, Dr Vaughan has gone on to work in research and clinical practice to prepare himself for the notoriously competitive specialisation. He says the low acceptance rate for postgraduate orthodontics and the impact of COVID-19 meant that only 17 training positions were offered in 2022 and that he is still coming to terms with the offer.

“It’s a cliche, but it really is a dream come true. I couldn’t quite believe it for a long time after receiving the letter of offer,” Dr Vaughan said.

It was a moment that was just as sweet for Dr Vaughan’s father, Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Vaughan, a JCU Academic and specialist orthodontist based in Newcastle.

“There were a few tears shed for sure. Everyone who wants to specialise puts so much work into the process, and growing up working in specialist practice I was closer to the role than most. As a child I would help out in dad’s lab, pouring up study models and helping make appliances. I did a Bachelor of Oral Health to get into dentistry, and ultimately to get into this training pathway. It’s been a very long-term plan and long-term dream,” Dr Vaughan said.

The specialised field of orthodontics focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. While they make up the largest group of dental specialists in Australia, orthodontists are still a rare breed. According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), there were just 552 orthodontists in the country in 2019.

Dr Vaughan attributes his successful application, in part, to the experience and research skills he gained by undertaking Honours as part of his Bachelor of Dental Surgery at JCU.

“Without the honours, the supervision and the lessons learned, I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Coming into an environment that heavily utilises research, the research comprehension and skills from Honours are really transferable. It was a perfect introduction to research in a highly supervised environment.

“I think JCU’s undergraduate dentistry program is the best in the country. From my experience, JCU Dentistry is putting their graduates in a strong, job-ready position. I really do fly the JCU flag proudly and I wish more people knew about the Honours program and its benefits,” Dr Vaughan says.

Through his time at JCU, Dr Vaughan was instilled with an awareness of the disparities in health outcomes between metropolitan and regional, rural and remote communities. It’s an issue he says he sees similarities between his placements in Cairns and his work in regional New South Wales with his father’s practice.

“My time at JCU showed me that the need for improved oral health services is so widespread. It’s a shared need throughout all of regional and rural Australia, regardless of which state you’re in. The placements we did as undergraduate students were generally in very rural and remote areas, and universally you’d see the same people with the same problems trying to get the same services, and they're infinitely more grateful for what we could do for them,” Dr Vaughan said.

Upon completion of the three-year training program, Dr Vaughan aims to return to Newcastle to follow in his father’s footsteps in running the family business and providing orthodontic treatment to the communities in and around Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

We congratulate Dr Vaughan on his admission to King’s College London and wish him all the best as he embarks on his specialty training.