Posted on 20th May 2020
Dr Christiana Lee has been volunteering with the Australian Dental Health Foundation since 2016, when she saw an article in the Western Articulator about a new oral health clinic opening inside St Patrick’s Community Support Centre in Fremantle.
“Being a mum of two young kids, I was working part–time and felt I had the available time to be able to give back to the community in some way,” she recalls. “I didn’t know much about St Pat’s initially but have since found out they provide numerous services to the disadvantaged and homeless population in Fremantle and beyond.
“I find it incredible that a not-for-profit organisation, which is completely reliant on donations and Government funding, is able to provide so many different services to the people who really need it the most.”
Christiana clearly caught the volunteering bug, giving her time to St Pat’s, Homeless Connect and Healing Smiles. “The oral health clinic at St Pat’s is like every other dental practice; we see emergency patients who are in pain or have broken a tooth, new patients for full examinations and regular patients for treatment planned appointments,” she says. “However, at St Pat’s I feel like I connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet and hear stories I wouldn’t otherwise hear. Some patients openly discuss addiction issues and the circumstances, which have caused them to become homeless.
“My experience at St Pat’s has really opened my eyes about the difficulties some people face in even having the confidence to apply for jobs due to self-consciousness about their smile. Being able to help by fixing their dental problems has been unbelievably rewarding and the patients are extremely grateful.”
Christiana says participating in Homeless Connect – an annual event held in Northbridge, in which the ADHF offers dental care to the homeless of Perth – is a wonderfully rewarding experience. “Some of the patients we saw only receive dental care that one day of the year, so there were numerous extractions and restorations to be done. It was fantastic meeting other volunteers from so many different organisations, who were all very happy to volunteer their time and expertise to help people in need.”
Christiana also volunteers for Healing Smiles, an initiative of the Women in Dentistry society. “It is a unique opportunity to provide dental care to a woman affected by domestic violence with the support of a team of other general dentists, specialists and dental technicians to help improve her quality of life.
“I was lucky that my boss, Dr Sam Rogers, shared my view and was happy for us to join the program at Northbridge Dental Clinic,” she says. “We have been seeing our Healing Smiles patient since March 2019 and have since completed her active treatment, which included numerous restorations, a couple of scale and cleans, a referral to Dr Pantea Moterafi (an endodontist who is also part of the Healing Smiles program), an extraction and a new lower chrome partial denture.”
Christiana says it feels good to be able to give back to the community and not expect anything in return. “To think I’ve had a small part in helping to rebuild someone’s life is priceless, and I’ve had so many hugs of gratitude,” she says, adding that she would encourage anyone considering volunteering to just jump in and try it.
“There are so many patients that need dental treatment and are unable to afford it, or do not have the social capacity to make it to Centrelink and do the paperwork to attend a government dental clinic,” she says. “We, as dental professionals, are in a such a privileged position to be able to make a profound difference in someone else’s life.”
To volunteer with ADHF, contact Andrea Paterson, email@example.com