“I really want to contribute to the Pacific community and help increase awareness of maintaining good oral health,” says Samoan-born Ofeira Leiu.
Growing up in Porirua, Ofeira was disappointed when her application to work at McDonalds was unsuccessful. But she applied for and gained the dental assistant’s position advertised in the same newspaper – a role she says enabled her to mature quickly as she finished high school and completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Victoria. Ofeira continued to work as a dental assistant for three years before deciding she definitely wanted to pursue a career in the dental field.
Although it was a wrench for family-orientated Ofeira to come to Otago, the School of Dentistry’s longstanding reputation was a strong motivator. She also became a senior residential assistant at Toroa College, a residence for international students, and to all those going to Otago without knowing anyone, Ofeira recommends, “get involved in as much as possible!”
As part of the first intake for the new Bachelor of Oral Health degree, Ofeira says the amalgamation of the former Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy degrees was “really well organised”. Ofeira found Otago “charismatic”, “open”, and enjoyed the
way students were taught to network with the other dentistry departments, learning how they complement one another.
A long term goal of Ofeira’s is to go to Samoa and encourage the people she cares about to protect their oral health. “It would (also) be a dream to own my own practice one day!”
For now, Ofeira is about to begin her new job as an oral health therapist with the Waitemata District Health Board. She has also received a scholarship from Counties Manukau, and hopes to give others confidence to imagine exciting futures for themselves. “I’ve been acknowledged already for chasing my dream. What is holding you back? You should just go for it!”