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Natalie worked for two weeks in a dentistry role in Thailand, in September 2013. She undertook many roles and took part in activities which allowed her to develop both professionally and personally. She spent her first week undertaking work experience in both Hang Dong hospital and assisting with dental outreach work in underprivileged schools within this district, whilst her second week was spent working in the dental department of Rajavej private hospital.

During both weeks of her placement, Natalie learnt an incredible amount about not only the technicalities of dentistry, including learning how to make a temporary crown, suture, perform fillings and take impressions, but also received an insight into how it actually feels to be a dentist. She states that, “although my primary role was as observational, I was given the opportunity to assist the dentists by aspirating during treatment procedures, which gave me a real feel as to how it feels to be part of the dental team: an invaluable experience considering I one day will be. My responsibilities were endless during my placement as due to my involvement with patients I had to ensure I maintained a professional and compassionate manner whilst also acting as a representative of the hospital, Gap Medics and also the University of Birmingham.”

One of the things Natalie enjoyed most about her work experience was being “thrown in at the deep end” of dentistry. “Up until my placement, as a first year student, I had only been involved in pre-clinical lectures and small clinic observation sessions and so there were times when I didn’t feel as though I was actually studying dentistry. On the first day of my placement I was immediately involved in the clinical side of dentistry, assisting the dentists in fillings, root canals and standard check ups. I was also given so many opportunities to get involved with the practice of dentistry in Thailand, including even being able to accompany the dentists on their outreach visits into schools to treat school children, something else which I was able to assist with and even able to provide my own minor treatment. During my placement I can honestly say that I have learnt more about dentistry than I did throughout my entire first year. I also enjoyed being completely taken out of my comfort zone and travelling across the world all on my own and taking the most independent step I ever have. The sense of adventure, and also being able to meet and interact with other medical and dental students from around the world, all contributed to my placement being the most incredible two weeks of my life.”

Natalie also recognises that her internship this summer will be of great benefit when she applies for graduate roles in the future, stating that, “dentistry is becoming more and more competitive, and something that ten years ago had a 100% employability score is now getting harder to get a job in. I believe that my experiences in Thailand will help me when I apply for my first dentistry job in four years’ time as it will demonstrate my dedication and commitment to dentistry, and also highlight that I have the initiative to go out and seek ways in which I can enhance my learning: a skill which a dentist will need throughout their life. I also developed a very keen interest in paediatric dentistry.”

Natalie identifies that, without the help of the UoB work experience bursary, her placement would not have been possible: “The most incredible part of my placement was knowing that this would be the very first step of my practicing career. The trip will always mark my ‘firsts’ as a dentist: my first patient, first filling, first temporary crown and most importantly, the first time I have ever left the country all by myself and embarked on such an incredible adventure. In twenty, thirty and even forty years time when I am a practicing dentist, I will always remember these two weeks as being the stepping stone which took me from a preclinical student to actually being able to visualise myself as a dentist of the future. Such an adventure would not have been possible without your kind donations.”