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Yvonne Golpak is a second year DClinDent candidate in paediatric dentistry. She gained her Bachelor in Dental Surgery at the University of Papua New Guinea in 2012, and worked as a general dental practitioner for five years before joining the DClinDent program.

Why did you decide to undertake postgraduate DClinDent studies?

My reason for taking paediatric dentistry is to be able to advocate for children in Papua New Guinea.

I wanted to understand dental systems abroad so that at the end of this program I would be able to initiate a referral system back home so that children benefit from available resources.

Were there specific reasons that you decided to do your DClinDent studies at the University of Otago?

There weren't too many places to choose from to go for further studies, especially if graduating from Papua New Guinea. Opportunities to go abroad for postgraduate studies in clinical dentistry are scarce and it is extremely expensive that many cannot afford. I was able to come to New Zealand because I was able to acquire a New Zealand Scholarship. But even if there were couple of other countries to choose from, I would still choose to come to the University of Otago to study. I find New Zealanders/Kiwi people in my country to be polite and friendly.

Another reason for coming to University of Otago is that the University is ranked in the top 50 in the world. Testimonials from International students in the University of Otago website speak highly of the study environment and student support.

What has your postgraduate journey been like so far?

I was greeted with a very positive atmosphere when I first arrived at the University of Otago, but little did I know about the experiences of an international student studying abroad.

Couple of challenges that I faced during the first year which included a new lifestyle which lead to a “culture shock” (I am still learning), daylight savings, extreme cold weather, and homesickness. The learning curve was also very steep for me but one thing I learned over the years is that it's important to make sure you ask the question when in doubt or need assistance.

Critical thinking is one of the main challenges you also come across as a postgraduate student, as dentistry is now moving toward evidence-based dentistry worldwide.

The supervisors are helpful and your postgraduate colleagues and dental assistants are your greatest allies. Our work is fun with children and the paediatric dental team in University of Otago are the best.

Every day is a challenge as not all children are the same, but it is rewarding to see children develop the ability to cope with dental treatment over time. In the end, you have to understand who a child is to enjoy working with him or her.

I am very glad to be part of the University of Otago Paediatric Dental team.

Has postgraduate study influenced your work, career, personal life?

I knew what I wanted to gain from doing Paediatric Dentistry but I was not too sure I was in the right program. Then I was introduced to treating children with holistic approach, different methods of behaviour management techniques and other advanced facilities to help with diagnostics that I had never been exposed to before I came for postgraduate studies.

This will change the way I practise dentistry for children when I return to my country.

During the program we have article reviews to keep up to date with current dental practice. Paediatric dentistry covers a wide range of dental and medical conditions therefore it is important to review literature and keep up to date with current practise. This is an attitude toward learning that needs to be developed over time. I strongly advice developing this skill before going anywhere for postgraduate studies.

Postgraduate studies involve a great deal of sacrifices. But balancing out your life and knowing your strengths and limitation contributes immensely to making the right choices for yourself and your wellbeing.

I am humble to have come to University of Otago to study Paediatric Dentistry. I joined the program with very limited awareness of the scope of dentistry practised outside my country. So, when I do leave University of Otago, I will be proud that I achieved more than what I initially intended to gain.

Has undertaking postgraduate DClinDent studies had an effect on your clinical practice?

Undertaking postgraduate DClinDent in Paediatric Dentistry given me a wider perspective of dental practice in dental management of the paediatric population. It also involves different aspects including medical and oro-facial trauma in children. This will definitely change my scope of practise after completion of the program.

Has undertaking postgraduate studies had an effect on how you view evidence for practice?

Evidence-based dentistry is now the basis of current medical and dental practice. And journal articles and case reports are the best guides. This was something I never knew about and learnt over the past months at University of Otago.

Would you recommend postgraduate DClinDent studies to colleagues, friends, or peers?

University of Otago has the best student support network. When you first arrive at dental school, you're greeted by a fantastic paediatric dental team and other student colleagues. There are scheduled programs that introduce you to the new learning environment and what you will be expecting over the three-year course of study.

Anyone looking to advocate for children and manage primary oral health care programs in their own countries or their private practise should come to study Paediatric Dentistry at University of Otago.

You attain the skill-set to confidently manage oral health of children and their behaviour in the dental chair and gives you a wider scope of the field and practise.

One other important skills you attain over the years is developing the ability to liaise with other specialties to finalise treatment plans the child patient.

How did you find interacting with the other students on the programme?

Students in other departments are very helpful and are willing to take time and have discussions with you or give an opinion from their speciality's point of view.

As a postgraduate in paediatric dentistry, you are required to seek advice and liaise with other departments for patients requiring interdisciplinary approach for treatment a lot. This helps establish a good ongoing relationship between the postgraduate colleagues and departments.

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