College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

6 January 2021

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Kickstarting a career

Nirjyot Gill is celebrating becoming a Dentist after completing her studies in 2020. The Cardwell local relished in the JCU experience while in Cairns. She is now setting her sights on the new challenges of dentistry as she enters the next phase of her career to bring healthy smiles to northern Queensland. This is Nirjyot’s story.

My decision to study Dentistry at JCU was influenced by JCU’s success in producing health professionals who are knowledgeable and skilled in rural healthcare. Born and raised in Cardwell, I not only understand the health barriers rural communities face, but I am also passionate and determined to overcome these barriers. The employability and career readiness of JCU graduates also made choosing JCU the superior option.

During my time at JCU I’ve felt included in a community which is both welcoming and supportive. I’ve learnt in an encouraging environment fostered by lecturers who are approachable and dedicated to teaching. The thought of moving away from home into an unfamiliar environment was daunting at first. But the transition was pleasant and I’ve made lifelong friends and memories which I will cherish forever. As a dental student, I feel both privileged and grateful to be studying at JCU with state of the art facilities, committed academics and a focus on rural, remote, Indigenous and tropical health.

Nirjyot Gill graduated in 2020
Nirjyot Gill at the JCU Dental Clinic
Nirjyot graduated with her Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 2020

Placements making a difference

Placement has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I’ve been able to provide a service to patients to relieve them of their pain and allow them to smile with confidence.

Since first year I have completed observational and clinical placements at the JCU Dental Clinic in Cairns and multiple sites across far north Queensland. In 2018, I also arranged an observational placement in California, USA. This was a great learning experience as I was able to closely observe treatments such as crowns and implants. I was also able to learn about the similarities and differences between the healthcare systems.

In my final year, I completed placements at the JCU Dental Clinic in Townsville and the Townsville Hospital and Health Services, North Ward Campus. I have thoroughly enjoyed the rotations I have been able to complete, treating primary school children in the dental van, managing patients with special needs and completing treatment under general anesthesia at the hospital. This has certainly broadened my knowledge and experience of the various fields within dentistry. By completing more than 2200 hours on placement, I have gained invaluable hands-on experience and look forward to providing services to rural and underserved communities.

A highlight of my placement has been interacting with paediatric patients. A memorable patient was a child who required multiple dental visits for his treatment. Upon returning to the clinic for his appointments, every time without fail he would run to the dental chair in excitement. One day after completing treatment, I asked what he would like to do in the future and with a beaming smile he said he wanted to be a dentist because he always had so much fun during his appointments. From this I realised the positive impact I can have on children. In the future I hope to continue creating a positive and fun experience for paediatric patients and eliminating the negative stigma associated with visiting the dentist.

Attending conferences, networking events and being involved in student clubs has also been a highlight of my time at JCU. Through these opportunities I’ve met like-minded passionate peers and professionals. I have held leadership positions in students clubs such as JCUDSA (James Cook University Dental Students Association) and RHINO (Rural Health in the Northern Outback) which have enabled me to further develop my teamwork skills and organise a variety of events for my peers.

Nirjyot Gill and her colleagues doing health promotion in Yarrabah
Nirjyot Gill on placement at the North Ward Health Campus
Nirjyot and her colleagues doing oral health promotion in Yarrabah (Left), Nirjyot on placement in the North Ward Health Campus clinic (Right)

Social impact of dentistry

Oral health plays a vital role in a person’s general health. As a dentist I hope to positively transform patient’s lives through restoring their oral health and creating a confident smile.

Oral health promotion and education is cornerstone for dental practice as most oral diseases are preventable. Throughout my studies, I have completed multiple oral health promotion programs, including educating primary school children on the importance of good oral hygiene and dietary habits, educating carers and residents in aged care homes of the unique needs of elderly patients and providing oral health education to the remote community of Yarrabah. I aim to implement the knowledge and skills I have gained from these health promotion projects in order to prevent and reduce the incidence of dental disease.

I would love to continue learning in the future through regular professional development courses and am considering the possibility of specialisation. I have particularly enjoyed working in locations close to where I have grew up (Cardwell) and look forward to giving back to these communities. I hope to continue advocating for good oral health and inspiring others to consider a career as a health professional in rural communities.

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