A shared dentistry dream

Supplied: Caroline Ho and Thomas Dolzan

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Written By

Rachelle McCabe


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

7 November 2023

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Friends since first year

Caroline Ho and Thomas Dolzan have a joint dentistry dream. It includes a sprawling acreage home, lots of animals, and one day owning their own dental practice to serve the oral health needs of a regional community.

As they complete their final year of Dentistry at JCU’s Cairns campus, Caroline and Thomas are all set to begin their professional journey, with the couple sharing a passion and enthusiasm for the industry. Caroline and Thomas have been friends since first year, deciding to become a couple after moving into a share house in their final year.

Caroline says she felt like a fish out of water when she first arrived in Cairns. The tropical climate and wide-open spaces felt unfamiliar to the city-dweller. “I still remember the day I arrived in Cairns. I was so young, and it felt like a really big change,” she says.

“There were a lot of trees and a lot of humidity. But everyone was just so supportive. I lived on campus initially, so it was very easy to make friends. We were all in the same boat," Caroline says. “A lot of the dentistry students were from interstate, and even overseas. Some of my best uni friends are actually from Canada.”

(Supplied: Caroline Ho and Thomas Dolzan)

Choosing to study dentistry in the Tropics

It was change that Caroline craved when deciding where to study dentistry. She was aware of JCU Dentistry’s excellent reputation, and she was also attracted to the tropical lifestyle on offer in the regional city.

“Cairns was on my radar because I wanted to move away from Sydney. I liked how close the accommodation was to the campus, it was only a 10 minute walk,” she says.

“When I was looking at universities in Sydney, I travelled to all the open days, and it took me an hour just to get into the uni. I talk to my friends in Sydney now, and they don't even know who is in their cohort, whereas here in Cairns we are all so close.”

For Thomas, rural dentistry was always the priority, with JCU being an obvious choice.

“The practical experience you get at James Cook is what really attracted me, as well at the rural focus,” he says. “Being from a rural area, that has always been a priority for me. I’d love to go back to a rural area when I finish.”

And he won’t have any trouble convincing Caroline to move rural. “I would say I’ve been transformed into a farm girl after my time at JCU,” she says.

Placement in Tasmania

The couple recently enjoyed a placement experience at Launceston, Tasmania where they were able to hone their dentistry skills and take in some of the spectacular Tasmanian landscape and tourist attractions.

“Just being in Tassie itself was a wonderful experience – the scenery, the wine and the cheese. It's just such a lovely place,” Thomas says. “And obviously the actual placement was great. The supervisors there are very knowledgeable and very experienced.”

Making plans for the future

With the clock winding down on their final year at university, both Thomas and Caroline are making plans for next year and beyond.

“I have taken a particular interest in oral surgery over the last 12 months. Unfortunately, surgery is sometimes our only option. I find that being able to complete these procedures in a timely fashion makes them much more comfortable for both the patient and the dentist,” Caroline says.

“I think that an area of oral health that could be improved is better access to both services and education, as these are the foundations of healthcare.”

(Supplied: Caroline Ho and Thomas Dolzan)

Restoring teeth to former beauty

For Thomas, improving the functionality and appearance of damaged teeth is an area he’d like to pursue. "After starting my final placement at JCU Dental in Townsville, I have a renewed interest in indirect restorations like crowns and bridges,” Thomas says.

“Being able to make a heavily filled tooth look natural again whilst drastically improving its function and stability is very interesting to me.

“Also, with recent developments in bridge technology, more conservative options mean that these procedures are more accessible to patients who otherwise might not have been able to replace their missing teeth.”

A life-transforming experience

“I would say to anyone who's looking to apply to study dentistry at JCU that you can’t go wrong with it,” Thomas says.

“And you never know – you might find you completely change your ambitions in life,” Caroline says. “You might be someone from the city like me but come out completely transformed. I decided to move my life to Cairns on a whim, and it’s been the best decision.”

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