Overcoming the odds: Dr Peter Terzi

Posted on 27th September 2019

 

Growing up in foster care, without the financial support of family, becoming a dentist was never going to be an easy journey for Dr Peter Terzi.

“I had no family support to assist my transition back to studying,” he recalls. “My journey into dentistry was not an easy road; most of my peers throughout childhood had dropped out of school well before year 10.

“I wanted to become a dentist at an early age, and I was fascinated about dentistry after suffering trauma in a football incident early in primary school.”

While studying at UWA, Peter worked night shifts at a local hospital to make ends meet. When the full-time study load became overwhelming, he investigated possible scholarships, which would allow him to stop working overtime and focus on completing his dental degree. “Without a scholarship I would have no doubt burnt out early in my career,” he says.

“I remember vividly writing my application and thinking that, despite the limited amount of scholarships available, it would still assist a student somewhere to have a fair chance at university.

“Luckily that was me, and I am still truly grateful that WADF recognised the difficulty that being a foster child has on undertaking tertiary studies.”

WADF’s financial assistance provided Peter with the opportunity to focus and enjoy aspects of dentistry that he was passionate about. “As a foster child, it can be hard to fit in and feel accepted at university. The WADF scholarship gave me belief in my own ability and it was then that I realised I had definitely chosen the right career path.”

Now graduated from UWA, Peter works half the week in the military and half in a rural private practice, where he performs the full remit of dental public health. “I take dentistry to the community, where my dental nurse and I venture out into public clinics in nursing home and social-support housing.

“The grant gave me the confidence to go back into the community that I came from and provide care to other people in the foster-care environment.

“I am passionately committed to improving the oral health of children and adolescents particularly in state care, who do not have parents to guide and teach them oral-health practices. I use every opportunity to empower young people who, like me, had a difficult upbringing, not to lose hope.

“I believe that young people are always looking for positive role models in healthcare that a young person can relate to and trust. Through trusting relationships, a dentist can reach more individuals in need and improve oral health. And for these reasons I am committed to providing young people with a healthy foundation for the rest of their adult life, as it did me.

“No matter what difficulties one faces on their journey into dentistry, I would encourage students who have had a difficult journey to apply for equity scholarships, because dentistry is a profession with supportive people and a supportive university that value diverse role models for future leaders.”

 

THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN DENTAL FOUNDATION

The Western Australian Dental Foundation was established during a period when the UWA Dental School was in danger of being closed down. The profession banded together to lobby the university and raise enough money so that we could retain 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 Peter 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 the Foundation to ensure that the valued donations are utilised in the most effective way.