Jessica Zachar

15 Oct 2015

Fol­low­ing her expe­ri­ence with the Roy­al Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice (RFDS), TOOTH (The Out­back Oral Treat­ment and Health) Pro­gram and wit­ness­ing its val­ue for peo­ple in rur­al and remote com­mu­ni­ties, Jes­si­ca has strength­ened her resolve to be the best den­tist I can be for Out­back Australia”

Jessica’s four-week clin­i­cal rota­tion in Dub­bo saw her pro­vid­ing den­tal ser­vices to the Dub­bo com­mu­ni­ty at the CSU Den­tal and Oral Health Clin­ic and also fly­ing in and out to remote com­mu­ni­ties from the RFDS Dub­bo Base. Jes­si­ca acknowl­edges that before start­ing her degree, she was unaware of the poor den­tal stan­dards in Out­back Aus­tralia, but after wit­ness­ing it her­self back in 2011, she was inspired to strive towards clos­ing the gap in oral health for rur­al Australia.

That month in Dub­bo was an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence,” she said. A high­light was the oppor­tu­ni­ty to fly to Col­larene­bri and Bourke with RFDS den­tist Dr Cal­lum Addi­son. My first day with the RFDS start­ed with board­ing the plane at 7:30am for a one-hour flight to Col­larene­bri, a town of approx­i­mate­ly 400 peo­ple,” Jes­si­ca said. Even with the heat, noth­ing could take away the excite­ment of the breath­tak­ing views and sit­ting in the cock­pit next to the pilot.” 

Fly­ing in and out means that the RFDS has to take portable equip­ment, includ­ing a tool-box with all nec­es­sary den­tal instru­ments and mobile radi­ograph­ic equip­ment. I could see that treat­ing patients with the lim­i­ta­tions of what we could car­ry was def­i­nite­ly a great chal­lenge and a mem­o­rable one,” Jes­si­ca said. It was also amaz­ing to see what a dif­fer­ence hav­ing a den­tist avail­able made for the peo­ple of Col­larene­bri, who pre­vi­ous­ly did not gen­er­al­ly have access to one.”

Jessica’s sec­ond day with the RFDS took her to Bourke to pro­vide treat­ment to patients at the Bourke Abo­rig­i­nal Health Ser­vice. I was so lucky to work with Dr Addi­son, who has a wealth of knowl­edge about den­tistry in remote loca­tions,” she said. If there was one thing I could take from this whole expe­ri­ence, it is that there is still a gap between oral health edu­ca­tion and people’s atti­tude towards the impor­tance of oral health and how it impacts your over­all well-being.

If we could empha­sis that healthy mouths makes healthy lives’ to peo­ple in these areas that have restrict­ed access to these much need­ed ser­vices, this would be a big step.” 

It was not all work. Jessica’s week­ends were spent explor­ing Dubbo’s well-known West Plains Taron­ga Zoo and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pop­u­lar Meerkat expe­ri­ence. Even as a Queens­lan­der, I was not pre­pared for the heat-wave while I was there,” she said, with tem­per­a­tures usu­al­ly in the low to mid 40s, so I spent lots of time swim­ming and being sur­round­ed by kan­ga­roos which were also try­ing to get their share of the cool water.” 

Jes­si­ca strong­ly encour­ages den­tistry stu­dents to take on a place­ment in remote Aus­tralia as it will open your eyes to the chal­lenges we still face in these areas to this day.” 

As a stu­dent at a region­al uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus, I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be exposed to pos­i­tive rur­al expe­ri­ences through­out my whole degree,” she said. I feel that this rur­al focus will pro­vide me with the foun­da­tion and skills to be the best den­tist I can be for Out­back Aus­tralia.

I would like to thank CRANAplus for the sup­port in pro­vid­ing me with this Stu­dent Remote Place­ment Schol­ar­ship. With­out this schol­ar­ship, I would not have been able to expe­ri­ence this amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

Next year, Jes­si­ca has place­ment rota­tions in region­al and rur­al areas includ­ing Bre­war­ri­na, Wag­ga Wag­ga, Bathurst and Port Macquarie.

Jes­si­ca was pres­i­dent of the CSU Stu­dent Den­tal Asso­ci­a­tion in 2014 and Vice-Pres­i­dent in 2013; and Rur­al Offi­cer for the Aus­tralian Den­tal Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion and the Nation­al Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the ADA RRO­HAP (Aus­tralian Den­tal Asso­ci­a­tion Region­al and Remote Oral Health Advi­so­ry Pan­el) in 2013 – 2014.

Jes­si­ca also received the Nation­al Rur­al Health Lead­er­ship Award in 2013 for her com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion in clos­ing the gap and rais­ing aware­ness of rur­al health issues in oral health.