James Cook University’s dental school is leading the pack in terms of graduates working in rural and remote areas, according to new Queensland Health figures.
A 2014 headcount of dental graduates from three Queensland universities working in 14 rural and remote areas within the state shows JCU graduates predominate in eight.
Eighteen JCU graduates are working in rural and remote areas; the next best university has five graduates working in the regions.
JCU’s dental and medical schools were set up as a way to get more health professionals working in rural and remote settings. Head of Dentistry, Professor Neil Meredith, said the result validated the dental school’s ethos.
“It’s commonly said that there are too many dentists in Australia, but they are completely maldistributed. There is a chronic shortage in rural and remote areas.”
Professor Meredith said JCU’s success started with a selection process favouring local candidates. “Then all the way through there’s an emphasis on placements in rural and remote and Indigenous communities,” he said.
“This is important because the students of today are the health care providers of tomorrow and an awareness of the special needs of patients in remote areas helps to create a lifetime of passion and enthusiasm.”
Students are also participating in a program that sees between 700 and 1000 people a week receive concessional and low-cost dental care at JCU’s Cairns campus.
Professor Meredith said there was a one hundred percent employment rate for the 80 new dentists JCU produces each year.