Jumping hurdles to achieve dreams

Posted on 17th December 2019

As anyone who’s emigrated from one country to another will know, it’s a move that is not without its challenges. For Dr Sarmah Nayeem, the stress of a move from Bangladesh to WA was compounded by the fact that both he and his wife were full-time students with a 17-month-old daughter to support.

“Being recent immigrants, we did not have any close family members or friends in Australia to help us in any way,” Sarmah recalls. “My parents, in-laws and extended families all were living in Bangladesh. Since my wife and I were from lower-middle-class families from a very underprivileged country, we could not expect any financial help from there.”

Determined to pursue his dream of becoming a dentist, Sarmah refused to give up, instead searching for financial assistance. Fortunately, help came in the form of a WADF grant.

“It was quite hard from my position to get a place in the highly competitive program and I believed I was now on my way to achieve my dream of becoming a dentist.

“My wife and I were both students with a little daughter. My wife’s paltry PhD scholarship was not enough to support our family, let alone pay for our daughter’s day-care expenses.

“I was not even eligible for the HECS-HELP scheme, which meant I had to arrange for my tuition fees as well, further compounding our financial woes.”

In dire financial straits, Sarmah began working in a pizza shop on Saturdays, for minimum wage. “With a full-time study load for both of us it was very difficult to seek work outside. I started looking for scholarships or grants to support ourselves. Without a scholarship it was no doubt my dream of becoming a dentist would have been short lived.”

According to Sarmah, WADF’s financial grant was a lifesaver – for both himself and his wife, Dr Tanzila Mahzabin. “I was able to pay off the tuition fee, which freed up some resources to allocate to our daughter’s day care, which let me concentrate on the workload of dental school.”

Now graduated, Sarmah works in private practice across two clinics – one rural and one metro. “I am grateful for the grant because it gave me hope that it will be possible to finish what I started. There is help out there for those who are in need. The wonderful dental community is there to support us struggling students.”

The Western Australian Dental Foundation was established during a period when the UWA Dental School’s future was under threat. The profession banded together to lobby the university and raise funds to ensure the long-term future of our proud dental school. Many students who studied dentistry at UWA in the last 20 years have the WADF to thank.

Since then, WADF has acted on behalf of the Western Australian dental profession to support the school and its students. It funds scholarships for financial hardships so that dentists like Sarmah can complete their education. It also funds special projects and research, as well as important pieces of equipment to improve the school’s prestige and credibility. The WADF has also funded and currently oversees the Alistair Devlin Memorial Scholarship. All of its funding has come from donations by individual members of the profession as well as specialist groups and societies. The Committee of Management, comprised of ADAWA, school and alumni representatives, manages WADF to ensure that the valued donations are utilised in the most effective way.