A day in the life of a Doctor of Dental Medicine student - Jim Rae

12/05/2022 | 5 MINS

Hi, I’m Jim and I’m in my second year of the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) at UWA.

Having grown up and lived on a rural property in Esperance, my love and desire for dentistry began after joining my local dentist for a week-long ‘work experience’ opportunity in year 10 (2011) organised by my high school in Esperance. Since then, I have spent numerous weeks/day-visits and at current shadowing local dentists, networking with dental specialists throughout Perth and visiting dental clinics and labs to gain a wider appreciation for dentistry.

Before commencing dentistry, I completed my Bachelor’s degree majoring in business and minor in organic chemistry. I also completed my Master of Commerce while studying for the GAMSAT to be admitted into Dentistry. Having been unsuccessful in my first attempt, I worked as an accountant for RSM in 2019 before recently, in 2020 working full-time on a Mine site when I was accepted into the Doctor of Dental Medicine. I continue to work in the Mining Industry in my holidays/uni breaks as a Power Station and Acid Plant Process Technician.

I truly believe that my unique, and what may seem ‘detoured’ pathway to dentistry has made me more relatable and understanding to the various patients that I will continue to see in the future.

As many wise Dentists have said to me before, Dentistry can be described as a perfect mix of art and science. This statement really resonates with me entirely. I love the ‘hands on’ aspects involved with dentistry and having attention for aesthetic detail when restoring teeth or creating oral appliances. I also really enjoy how material science complements oral medicine and how research and development continues to advance what we can do for our patients globally.

Having grown up in rural/remote Western Australia, I have seen first hand the impacts of not having adequate access to dental care, having to join a lengthy waiting list and/or even having to travel long distances just to be seen by a dentist. Not many graduates make the exciting leap to rural/country practice. I personally thrive off the ‘community’ feel that comes with rural practice which generally involves knowing your patients well beyond the four walls of a dental clinic… but also being involved with them in the wider community. I believe being known by your patients as someone not just as their ‘Dentist’ but also as a fellow team mate or community member for example, really helps with breaking any fears or stigma associated with visiting the dentist, and for me being more involved in wholistic dentistry as well as their dental journey.

My dream is to return to rural/country Australia to help relieve the pressure with lengthy dental waiting lists and to do my part in bridging the ‘gap’ observed between urban and rural dentistry.

So… why not medicine?? Well firstly, Dentistry is itself a specialisation of medicine and you can have a direct and immediate impact on improving the quality of life of patients who visit the clinic. This can be through a variety of channels such as improving the oral health literacy and educating patients of better oral hygiene behaviours and associated benefits from this. Additionally, good oral health sets the foundations for good overall health and reduces susceptibility to other systemic diseases; so as a dentist we play an important role in influencing positive health outcomes to our community members. And… there’s nothing more satisfying than treating a patient who previously was in pain or not happy with their smile!

 

My typical day

AM

My mornings start with an early rise, packing my lunch and snacks and then jumping on the bike to ride along the beautiful swan river from South Perth to The Oral Health Centre of Western Australia (OHCWA) in Nedlands.

I like to arrive at least 30 minutes before classes start to make a coffee and check emails/plan out what needs to get done for the day. When that’s all done, a few of us like to sneak in a few games of Table Tennis or Pool to get the blood flowing before lectures/clinic starts.

Occasionally, a few of us early birds head over to the dental kiosk for a coffee and enjoy a catch up in the courtyard.

Lunch

I usually like to pack and make my own lunch to save money. If the weather is nice, I sit outside in the courtyard with mates to soak up the sun and the fresh air. Alternatively, lunch is enjoyed in the Dental Common room with mates whilst watching some epic table tennis battles.

On special occasions such as post-assessments or birthdays, I like to head out to Santis café or the Hampden Hotel with my peers to get off campus and relax over a nice snack or beverage.

Sometimes I also like to take a step outside of the ‘Dentistry bubble’ and head off campus to Perth Children Hospital or Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital on the QEII Health Campus or down Hampden road to catch up with my Medicine mates or friends that work and study nearby.

PM

After finishing my last lecture/clinic session for the day, I check my emails and social media and then catch up with my peers in the common room for a chat or a quick game of Pool/Table Tennis before I rush off to my sporting/social commitments.

After dark

Most of my weekday evenings are occupied by some form of sport/exercise. This is my way of releasing some steam and disconnecting from my studies, and reconnecting with my friends/social groups outside of Dentistry.

On Mondays, this involves social mixed ultimate frisbee at UWA with my college friends. Tuesdays and Thursdays is footy trainings with the UWA squad. Wednesdays is men’s touch rugby with a bunch of med/physio/PT and army mates.

When I’m not exercising/training, I’ll spend a couple hours each evening getting some study done and working on upcoming assignments.

Other hobbies include brewing beer with a couple of previous work colleagues (very much enjoyed on a Friday night if at home), occasionally strumming around with my guitar, and heading away fishing/camping when possible.

After after dark

The occasional Friday evening is enjoyed down at the Hampden hotel for a couple of debrief beverages or out at a restaurant off campus after public health placements. Times like these are well received and a lovely way to catch up with mates in a relaxed setting. Even more so if the footy is playing LIVE on the big screen!

 

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