He loved the work, but he knew the construction business had its ups and downs, so he decided he might be better off with a career in dentistry.
“I love working with my hands and I really enjoy talking to people, so dentistry seemed a natural choice.”
Unlike many Australian universities, Otago offers dentistry as an undergraduate programme so Rob, whose roots are Ngapuhi in Northland, chose to come here to study.
“My mum and one of my brothers had studied at Otago, and if I had to leave home, I wanted to go somewhere interesting.”
Rob downed tools with his dad and left for New Zealand. He’d already experienced living in Osaka, Japan, so he soon settled in Dunedin once he’d acclimatised to the change in temperature.
He touched base with the Maori Centre to learn more about his family, and later became head of the Maori Dental Students’ Association.
Soon his consistent academic progress and A-grades were winning him awards and scholarships.
“It’s a pretty intense course, but if you work hard you get the benefit from it. You get back what you put in, and if you’re going to do something you might as well do it right first time.
“You study a lot, but you work hard and play hard too. Dentistry came before student life, but we always made time for fun. And the student facilities were great. The new gym is the best I have ever been to.”
On graduation, Rob took a position as a Maxillofacial House Surgeon in the Faculty of Dentistry and Dunedin Hospital.
“It’s great — it doesn’t really feel like a job. I really love dentistry.”