Dentist aims to spread her knowledge

Papua New Guinea-born student Yvonne Golpak is in the second year of her doctorate in clinical dentistry at the University of Otago. Photo: Linda Robertson
Papua New Guinea-born student Yvonne Golpak is in the second year of her doctorate in clinical dentistry at the University of Otago. Photo: Linda Robertson
Rural Papua New Guinea is a tough place to get dental care for your child - but that could soon change, a University of Otago dental student on her way to becoming the country's first paediatric specialist says.

Papua New Guinean student Yvonne Golpak is in her second year of studying clinical dentistry at doctoral level at the university.

Ms Golpak won the second-year section of the first Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry three-minute thesis competition for dental students, held in Melbourne at the weekend.

She has been in Dunedin since the start of 2018 and is studying at the university under the New Zealand Scholarships Programme, formerly NZaid.

''It's been a privilege,'' she said.

Her research has involved travelling to and from Papua New Guinea to conduct a clinical trial involving 38% silver diamine fluoride treatments in preventing dental caries from progressing when it came to cavities in children.

Her research subjects were from a village in Port Moresby, and parents had been ''overwhelmingly positive'' in their reception of her.

''They wanted their children to receive dental treatment because they've never had something like that treatment brought into their village. ''

She hoped the research she was carrying out while at the University of Otago would give her the evidence needed to improve some systems and policies at home.

''I guess it's been an eye-opener for the dentists at home ... They might come here to do further study.''

The work she had done to date had involved ''a lot of people'', including supervisors from Otago University, the University of Papua New Guinea, village elders and local dentists.

''It's very difficult for parents in rural places to actually bring their children to a dental facility.

''We have a lack of facilities and manpower as well. There's a lot of things that need to be improved.''

The three-minute thesis competition pitted her against dental students from around Australasia, and was judged by specialist paediatric dentists and general dentists with an interest in paediatric dentistry.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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