Did the expectations meet reality?
They definitely have! There is such a good support network on Thursday Island. Our supervisor, Dr Michael Evans, is an awesome mentor. He has been a dentist for over 50 years, and he has given us plenty of attention and support.
Whenever Dr Michael is busy, I can go to the other dentist on-site, Dr Maria McGowan, and she is extremely helpful too. Dr Maria has been living here for over 30 years and is very knowledgeable. The guidance from both of these amazing dentists has been a highlight for me and they’ve shown me how rewarding rural and remote dentistry can be.
And the fishing has been as good as you were told?
So good! On weeknights, we head down to the jetty for shark fishing. They put up a really tough fight, you can get some awesome photos, and then we release them. On the weekends you’re out on the reef; fishing, spearfishing, crabbing, and diving. The locals are so inclusive of the JCU students, and they’re always more than happy to take us out to experience the beautiful Torres Strait.
So the community of Thursday Island has been very welcoming?
The community is super friendly. It’s to the point that if someone walks past you without saying hello it’d probably be considered very rude! The locals have made adapting to life on placement so much easier for me.
I’ve loved the relaxed lifestyle and it’s been a nice break from the busyness of city life. On Thursday Island, like Cairns, everything is so much more accessible. Back in Sydney, you’ve got to do at least an hour of travelling to get anywhere remotely close to the kinds of places you get up north. Here on Thursday Island, you can get anywhere within a three or four-minute drive. At the JCU accommodation, they’ve given us bikes, which have been great for exploring the island. It’s also been awesome meeting the other JCU students living at the accommodation – they have been such a good time and along with the locals, they will be friends for life!
How would you describe your personality and how it fits with a place like Thursday Island?
I can never forget this episode of the Steve Harvey show I watched a while back where he raves on about how “success is never a comfortable procedure”. Since then, I have actually found it more difficult to be content if I’m not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So Thursday Island ticks all the boxes with plenty of experiences and adventures.
In the past, I have felt like I’m always the one pushing my mates, to say ‘let’s grab the boat, or let’s go for a fish, or do this or that’, however, here I have people encouraging me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise which is awesome.
What kind of cases have you treated or had exposure to during this placement?
You get a very well-rounded exposure to all aspects of dentistry. It’s been a very different clinical experience from my first capstone placement in Launceston, Tasmania. We get a lot of patients from the outer islands. It influences how you approach your treatments and planning because these patients are only able to visit every few months.
It is quite common to see badly broken-down teeth and extensive tooth decay as a result of poor oral hygiene and oral health education. As a result you get exposure to root canals, oral surgery, dentures, fillings, as well as your usual routine and paediatric dentistry.