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Coming full circle

Thu, 24 Oct 2019
Michael Robinson in Alice Springs

For dentist Michael Robinson, supervising James Cook University students on placement in Solomon Islands whilst working alongside local dental and medical teams in isolated and remote parts of the Pacific Island nation, has been a highlight of his career so far.

“Going to Solomon Islands has been an incredible opportunity.  To know that I played a very small role in the students' journey, and helped to provide dental services alongside local teams, has been a very humbling and rewarding experience.” Dr Robinson said.

The JCU students were able to assist the local health teams as well as learn valuable lessons. Dr Robinson found they gained an insight into local clinical processes and how to provide services in extremely remote locations.

“Working in a different cultural setting has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of what it means to be a healthcare professional, as well as focus and refine what I can do and achieve as a dentist. The cross-cultural experience has been invaluable,” Dr Robinson said.

Supervising dentistry students has been an opportunity to come full circle for Dr Robinson, who graduated JCU’s Bachelor of Dentistry in 2016.

His path into the profession was born of a love of rural and remote Australia, and of the desire to work in healthcare and to help people.

As the son of teachers with a passion for remote Far North Queensland, he spent part of his childhood in some of the state’s most far flung communities, including Bamaga, Cooktown and Mornington Island.

When it came to choosing a university, he saw JCU’s focus on regional, rural, remote and Indigenous health as the perfect match.

“Being fortunate enough to study at JCU gave me a strong foundation in rural, remote, tropical and Indigenous health.  It has given me a good grounding to return to work in these parts of Australia,” he said.

As for the kid who grew up in remote regions, a clinical placement in one of the most northern parts of the country was always going to be a highlight.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university, socially, academically and clinically.  I made some great friends and had some great experiences.  But I would have to say my placement on Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, was one of the highlights.

“Clinically, I learnt and developed a lot, but it was also a great lifestyle.  I had an amazing five months, with a lot of exploring, camping, boating and fishing.”

With an ingrained desire to work in rural and remote locations, Dr Robinson started his career with South Australia Dental Service as the sole dentist in Whyalla.  He then moved to New Zealand, gaining hospital experience in a Dental/Oral Maxillofacial Department.

But it wasn’t long before the outback called and Dr Robinson and his partner, a fellow dentist with experience in remote communities, found themselves in Alice Springs.

Michael Robinson and partner in Alice Springs

“We were both excited about moving to Alice Springs.  We are very interested in public health and love the rural lifestyle, so it was a fairly easy choice for me to do what I can to help out in rural and remote communities. I enjoy the work. It can be challenging, but I find it very rewarding.”

Along with his work, Dr Robinson is also currently studying a Master’s in Public Health and Master of Business Administration through James Cook University.

He’s then planning to add another health string to his bow, having been accepted into the University’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery course to commence in 2020.

“Studying medicine at JCU, together with dentistry, will give me a good foundation to continue to work in rural and remote Australia and do my best to improve the health and wellbeing of the local populations.”