Margaret-Rae Clark (Ngāti Awa), BDS. In recognition for work championing Māori oral health equity.
Working in private practice and community dentistry for an iwi-led health service, alongside serving on dental associations, Margaret-Rae is committed to closing the equity gap in access to oral health care.
What was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?
I was incredibly surprised to receive the award, especially being surrounded by so many incredibly talented alumni. Awards have never been my motivation, but it is always incredibly touching to be recognised for this mahi. The oral health space is often pushed to the side lines of healthcare, so I'm grateful that Otago has brought this field to light with the award.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
After graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, I began working in both private practice and as a community dentist. My role as a community dentist is based out of Ora Toa primary healthcare organisation, an iwi-led health service in Cannons Creek. Alongside my day jobs, I have also been an executive member for Te Ao Mārama (NZ Māori Dental Association) and the Wellington Branch of the NZ Dental Association. Not long after beginning work, I found there was a huge equity gap in the access to oral health services across the region. This encouraged me to find pathways for those in need of care. My main focus groups have been low-income adults, patients with diabetes, wāhine, and Māori and Pacific hapū māmā (pregnant women). Through various community grants, donations and events we have been able to improve access to oral healthcare and in many cases provide free dental care to those most in need.
What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?
There is no greater motivator than speaking with the patients and community around me. Hearing the stories of their trials and tribulations keeps the passion alive to seek out help. I am also lucky to work in an industry with so many amazing colleagues, great advice and ideas are never more than a phone call away. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this work on my own, and getting to work in a supportive team that follows the same kaupapa as me has made a big difference.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it influenced you in following your interests?
My years at Otago were filled with so many great memories and created some of my closest friendships today. In particular, my flatmates and classmates were always ready to go out and have a good time, teaching us all the skills needed to work hard and play hard. There was no shortage of student events to keep us chipper through the terrible weather. Now my classmates have become colleagues, we still have a strong influence over each other and help each other improve. Many of the lecturers and professors I met at university swayed the clinician I am today, in particular Emeritus Professor John Broughton – a leader in Māori oral public health.