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Written By

Andrew Cramb

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

2 September 2021

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ADA Grant brings dentistry dream closer for second-year JCU Dentistry student

Born and raised in the rural Far North Queensland town of Mutchilba, Dave Bailey loves life in the bush and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But when he commenced studying Dentistry at James Cook University in 2020 he knew his remote location would bring challenges, like a three hour commute to uni and a patchy home internet connection.

Dave’s journey to becoming a dentist was recently given a boost thanks to a study grant from the Australian Dental Association (ADA). One of just five students nationally, Dave was awarded the grant based on his location, his community involvement, and his commitment to working in a rural or rural remote community in the future.

According to Dave, the grant funding will make an incredible difference for him and his young family, particularly with the birth of his first child early into his second year of study.

“It’s taken the financial pressure off us. Full-time study, travelling, plus raising a newborn — which is hard in itself! It was an awesome feeling and I feel super proud to have been selected,” Dave said.

Dave Bailey in the JCU Dentistry sim clinic
Dave Bailey practising in the JCU Dentistry sim clinic
Left: Dave at the JCU Dentistry sim clinic in Cairns. Right: Dave spends plenty of hours in the sim clinic practising his skills

Grant takes the pressure off

“I really want to thank ADA for having these grants. It means a lot, both in terms of the financial support, and the recognition of some of the challenges you might face in a rural or remote place.”

Along with funding travel costs, the ADA grant enabled Dave to buy an iPad to assist in his studies. The iPad is particularly useful considering the phone and home internet at Dave’s farm often cuts out in the early evening.

“We’re in a black spot, so you need to time your internet use and download as much as you can before getting home. The iPad enables me to transcribe notes and download the resources I need before heading home. Full-time study requires finding time to do four or five hours study at night, and even more when it’s close to exams. It’s pretty full-on, so the resources from this grant are really helpful,” Dave said.

Dave is the first in his family to go to uni, but he is certainly no stranger to study life. He completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy at JCU in 2013, going on to serve in Palm Island and at Townsville University Hospital and later gaining a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy. His pharmacy placements and work experience cemented Dave’s passion for rural health and planted the seeds for a career in dentistry.

“I did a lot of rural placements during my pharmacy studies, and I’d often see the mobile dental clinic come into these places and deliver much needed oral health services there. I’ve always had a passion to help people, and I loved the idea of a hands-on job like dentistry,” Dave says.

Dave and family on the farm
Dave Baily on a quad bike at the farm
Left: Dave with his wife Julia and son on their Mutchilba property. Right: Dave getting out on the farm on his quad bike

A strong desire to improve the oral health of rural communities

“I love that in dentistry you can take care of a whole health issue. If someone has a sore tooth, you can stop the problem for them. It’s holistic, and it can be preventative, and I will get a lot of satisfaction from being able to help people in this way.”

With most practising dentists located in major cities or inner regional areas, it is perhaps of little surprise that tooth and gum diseases are more common in rural and remote parts of Australia. JCU Dentistry is committed to equipping students like Dave to go out to underserved communities to address the need for improved dental health services.

“When I graduate I want to work in a rural hospital or mobile dental clinic. Though these facilities are generally smaller and have fewer resources, they play a vital role in the provision of community-wide integrated health services,” Dave says.

Dave’s wife, Julia, is also a JCU graduate and is currently doing her PhD at JCU. He says she has been a constant support and encouragement for him, as well as a terrific mum to their young son.

“Julia loves that we can bring our son up here in the bush. It is challenging raising a young family, studying and living in a remote location but I think the community support and the friendships that you make will draw you back there - there's nothing else like it,” Dave says.

While Dave’s upbringing and family life give him a natural affinity to serving outback communities, he encourages his fellow students to go where the need is, saying it also comes with plenty of opportunities on offer as well.

“I’d encourage every student to seek out rural experiences. You’ll see more cases and get a level of exposure to a range of dental issues you probably wouldn’t get in the city,” Dave says.

Dave loves the outback lifestyle on the property in Mutchilba

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