Posted on 13th July 2020
Originally from Bunbury, with an interest in treating and educating children in the Wheatbelt, South West and Midwest regions of WA, and shaping early mindsets towards oral hygiene, it is easy to see why Ebony was selected for the Country Women’s Association of Western Australia Rural Dental Scholarship.
Timing was also on the side of the second-year Doctor of Dental Medicine student, who luckily discovered the scholarship after Googling “dental scholarships”.
“Only one person can hold the scholarship at a time, so it had been a while since it had last been up for offer,” Ebony explains. “I saw on the CWA website that they had offered the scholarship in the past and so emailed them enquiring about it in my first year.
“This year, they were able to offer it again as the previous recipient had graduated and, after collaborating with UWA, the CWA reached out for applications. I had previously heard about the awesome work the CWA does and knew I shared similar values, so was really thrilled when I saw they were offering a scholarship. I applied because the worst that could have happened was to be told no, but if I were to receive it, it would be a great help.”
To qualify, students must be from a rural background and willing to practice in a regional or rural community after successful graduation. The application also considers academic results, reference letters from academics, and a demonstrated passion for rural health.
“When applications are called for the CWA Rural Dental Scholarship, UWA selects a pool of potential candidates that qualify under the guidelines,” CWA State President, Elaine Johnson, says. “These students are already of a very high standard, which makes our job of selecting the recipient all the more difficult. We then conduct personal interviews and make our final decision in agreement with the university.
“We look for those who not only display high academic achievement and are in financial need, but also that have a passion for rural and regional communities and show a desire to set up practice in these areas and to promote dental health.”
Ebony is the third recipient since the establishment of the scholarship in 2012, with Rachel Abdel-Messih and Rani Flynn past recipients.
Finding out she had been awarded the scholarship was a welcome surprise for Ebony. “Jackie (Farmer), CEO of the CWA, actually phoned me and let me know before I was sent the official email, which was so lovely,” Ebony says. “I was very happy and grateful! I couldn’t really believe it for a while, as I knew some very bright people had applied.”
The scholarship provides a $5,000 yearly grant for up to four years, enabling more time to focus on studies, afford textbooks and equipment and assist with accommodation and living costs.
“Training rural dentists requires a multi-prong approach and that is why the CWA of WA developed this partnership with the University of Western Australia to ensure the success of rural dental placements,” Elaine says.
“Our association represents the voice of country people and for 96 years we have advocated for better medical and dental services outside of the metropolitan areas,” she adds.
“We keep in contact with them during their journey and they are invited to our yearly state conferences to report highlights of their study to the membership.
“By encouraging and supporting these enthusiastic young dentists, it is hoped that their energy and passion will be used to promote good oral hygiene in regional communities. We see education as being the key to the reduction of dental disease and the flow on effects to general health.”
For Ebony, the scholarship means a financial weight is lifted. “The scholarship will allow me to focus on my studies with less worry about finances,” she says. “I’ve just used a fair amount to purchase my first pair of loupes, which would have otherwise been quite financially stressful. The majority will just be going to the essentials like rent, food and bills. It has been hard to find a balance so far in my postgraduate degree as I have a lot less time to juggle both work and study. I am so grateful that I now don’t have to worry about it so much and can engage with my studies more.”
Although she has a couple of years to go until she completes her studies, Ebony is open to all opportunities once she is ready to practice. “I would love to make a difference in a community and help people to think of their oral health as an important facet of their overall health,” she says.
“I am very humbled by the work of many great dentists on substantial public oral health issues and understand there are many challenges that arise when tackling bigger issues. However, I’d really like to get involved in matters such as expanding water fluoridation and other preventative approaches. I am excited to enter the workforce, gain more experience and be in a position to find where I can be of value in adding to the ongoing work on such significant matters.”