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Dentistry graduate realises childhood dream

Wednesday 11 May 2022 12:46pm

aprilmainApril Hyland is now working in private practice in Tauranga

April Hyland (Te Āti Haunui a Pāpārangi) has wanted to be a dentist since she was twelve years old.

“It was one of those ideas I had when I was a kid and it just stuck. I never thought about doing anything else. I’ve always liked sciences and the idea of working in health, and I like the hands-on aspect of dentistry and that it is creative.”

When she got to the stage of looking at university applications, April decided to make sure dentistry was the career she wanted. Volunteer work through the hospital dental unit and a private practice clinic in her hometown of Whanganui confirmed her path.

“I enjoyed it. I like the interaction and being able to help the person that’s walking through the door.”

April graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery on 7 May 2022. She is the first person in her family to get a university degree, and was joined by her parents, Nana and aunties for the ceremony in Dunedin. “I think they were more excited than me.”

April is now working in private practice in Tauranga after taking over the books from a retiring dentist and is right into a full workload. It is all she dreamed of from childhood.

She felt well prepared for the transition into the workplace, as her university studies became increasingly practical year-on-year. She completed her final year in Otago’s dental clinic in Manurewa, South Auckland. She says it was a great experience, despite disruptions caused by COVID-19 restrictions seeing the team work right up until Christmas and then into January to complete their practising certificates.

April credits her foundation year with Tu Kahika as a large reason for her success. This one-year Otago course prepares Māori students academically for their first year of tertiary study and a future career in Māori health. She particularly acknowledges the ongoing support of programme coordinator Sam Feeney and programme manager Zoë Bristowe.

“From the get-go it’s been Zoë and Sam. Sam looked out for us that whole foundation year and they follow you throughout. They have a lot of annual events they host and include us in and create a whole support network.

“Since the programme started the success just shows - I actually work with another Tu Kahika graduate in my dental practice. It’s definitely created a tightknit community and it’s great to have the support.”

April says she did the preparatory year because she lacked confidence and an understanding of what university was all about. During this time she met tutors and people who gave her the tools to study and succeed. She says one lesson learned was to really take the time to understand what she was learning.

“I didn’t really study at high school, the process is that you learn a module and immediately sit the test, whereas at uni you do a whole semester and then you sit an exam. It is a bigger workload and you can’t cram, you need to really know your subject. That year with Tu Kahika got me prepared to really engage and understand what I was being taught.”

April plans to get some experience under her belt in private practice. Her time working in clinical placements with more vulnerable communities and children made a big impression as far as the great need out there for accessible, affordable oral health care and what a difference it can make in people’s lives. While she’s “not one for politics,” she would like to contribute to and be part of a healthcare system able to give people the best treatment, rather than the option they can afford.

We wish April all the best on her journey.