The La Trobe University School of Dentistry and Oral Health reports that it is seeing an increase in students from rural backgrounds. Twenty-nine of the 54 first-year students who commenced classes in March come from rural or regional areas, which is 27% higher than the 13 of 51 such students in last year’s incoming class.
Associate professor Rachel Martin, head of dentistry and oral health at the school, said she was thrilled to see the high caliber of regional applicants this year.
“We always hope to fill the course with students from rural and regional areas, because we know that they are more likely to fill rural workforce needs after they graduate,” Martin said.
“Many communities in rural and regional Victoria are crying out for more dentists and oral health professionals. In some areas, waiting lists to see dentists are weeks, or even months. And for public dental services, people are waiting years,” Martin said.
“Our graduates also play an important role in closing the gap between city and country dwellers in terms of oral health outcomes,” Martin said.
Dr. Haylea Blundell, a La Trobe dentistry graduate and orthodontist born in Bendigo, said it was rewarding to give back to the community through her work.
“I always intended to return to Bendigo after completing my specialist orthodontic training so that I could serve Bendigo and the surrounding communities. I was fortunate to be able to complete my undergraduate studies in Bendigo and get critical hands-on experience in regional communities while I was still a student,” Blundell said.
“It’s so important that regional and rural students consider professions like dentistry because, more than anyone, they understand the enormous benefits of living and working in a smaller community,” Blundell said.
La Trobe is the only university in Victoria to offer a dentistry program fully based at a regional campus. Students completing the five year bachelor of dental science (honors) complete work placements across regional Victoria.
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