Meet our student

George Abdelmalek Mr George Abdelmalek

Course of study:
Bachelor of Health Sciences in Dentistry/Master of Dentistry 2014

What goals/needs were you thinking about when you chose your course?
When deciding to study dentistry, many things came to mind. After liaising with many people in the profession, I knew that this course was for me. Dentistry gives you all the extrinsic benefits in terms of working hours, lifestyle, job stability/security and income. But what sets it apart from other professions is the intrinsic benefits. Satisfaction from alleviating patients of pain, increasing their self-worth and confidence, making an impact to their health there and then - on the spot – are things that cannot be underestimated. Nor can the idea of giving back to a community, especially a rural community, who have suffered from sub-standard dental care due to a lack of dentists in the area.

What pathway did you take to La Trobe?
After finishing year 12 in 2008, with an ENTER of 96.25, I was unsuccessful in gaining a place in La Trobe's Dentistry program. My mark was not high enough, and I was forced to look at different university programs. I was accepted into La Trobe's Physiotherapy program in Bundoora, which was my second preference. At the time, Physiotherapy seemed to me as a great alternative, and the hands-on aspect of the profession really appealed to me. After a year of Physiotherapy, I found myself still interested in Dentistry. Maintaining a high distinction average in the Physiotherapy course allowed me to investigate my options in applying for Dentistry. I applied for an Internal Transfer (Latrobe to Latrobe) and was granted the transfer to the La Trobe Dentistry course.

What are the best things about your course and about La Trobe, for you (teaching staff, course content, specific subjects, work experience, study resources…)?
For such a young program, it is hard to fault the Dentistry course. From our Head of School, Professor Peter Wilson, to the lecturers and clinical demonstrators, everybody and anybody involved has worked extremely hard to ensure that this course is a success. The teaching staff, so far, have been amazing. Their professionalism, selflessness and friendliness has completely shocked me. Whether it be a quick chat when crossing paths, passing over their knowledge of the profession, or them staying behind to explain things to me (especially during exam time!)...they have always been more than happy to be of assistance and accessible. The hands-on nature of the course is also great. I remember entering the simulation clinic in the third or fourth week of semester 1 not knowing what to expect. Here I am, a clumsy 19 year old who struggles to tie his own shoelace, let alone drill holes in teeth. But lo and behold, after countless hours of teaching and practice, a master craftsman at work. Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves here, perhaps not a master craftsman, but I am infinitely better than when I started off, and with the next four years of the course also emphasising clinical practice (especially the last two) I can only get better......right???
Subject wise, I feel as if the course has the right mixture. In first year, we have dealt with the practical part of dentistry, the anatomy and physiology aspect and the theory/foundation part of dentistry. Learning anatomy on cadavers has added a different dimension on the subject, and allowed us to grasp a greater understanding. It also goes without saying that practicing on the dental manikins has been great. Although they don't replicate the exact conditions of treating a real patient (obviously...) they provide an invaluable tool in which training can take place. I cannot wait to treat real patients in third year, very exciting stuff! The rural focus on this course has also opened my eyes to rural practice...and it definitely adds another dimension to our education, experience and practice.

Where do you see the course taking you – do you have a specific job or career path in mind, or maybe further studies? Do you think your course gives you good career opportunities?
I see this course taking me to the dental field. After graduating from the course, I will be a general dentist for at least two years. I've been asked many times if I want to specialise within the field, become an academic or "wet-finger" dentist - but honestly as a first year student I am not sure yet. That is not to say I don’t want to specialise, but rather to emphasis the fact that I haven’t given it proper thought yet. It is a possibility, and am keeping an open mind, and am hoping as I progress through this course and garner more knowledge, I will be better situated to make such a decision. Let's get through the course first, shall we!

Have you done an internship, clinical placement, any similar work experience?
During semester one, as part of our assessment we completed clinical observation. I completed it with a dentist near me, and it was quite interesting to see the backroom workings of a dental clinic. It was also an avenue for me to show off my newly learnt dental lingo – but I'm not sure he appreciated me treating his patients when he left the room. Noooo, that was a joke – I was put in the corner to observe and take notes...but imagine!

What do you like most about your campus?
For a person who studied at Bundoora last year, the Bendigo campus is quite small in comparison. Im still torn over which I prefer more, the big open Bundoora campus with the great shops, massive library and cinema quality lecture theatres or the small Bendigo campus with the relaxed country feel, canteen and kangaroos regularly walking (hopping?) past. As a member of the BOHDS committee, which is the student body for dental and oral health students in Bendigo, I have had great fun participating in planned social events and voicing my opinions/concerns.

Do you have any good tips for secondary students who are hoping to study at uni?
First and foremost, don’t assume you have to go to uni to be successful. I believe success is measured by satisfaction and happiness in life, and if you can achieve what you want without going to uni you shouldn't feel you need too. In saying that, if you want to go to uni, great. Apply for courses which you will accept. Don't just put them down to fill the 12 VTAC preferences. If you don’t get the marks you want or need, don’t despair. It is easy to feel like a failure and that you’re not good enough – but that is not the case. The view is best from a mountain hardest to climb. Given you’re still reading my profile, either you’ve found me really interesting (hmm...) or you are dentistry hopeful. If you’ve got the marks to enter, and are interested in Dentistry, I highly recommend that you apply for La Trobe's dental course. You will be part of something new, something fresh, innovative, exciting and rewarding. For those of you who haven’t got the marks, I want to assure you that although dentistry is not easy to get into; with hard work it is possible. I'm living proof. I am not a genius, but applied myself to my studies to ensure I climbed that mountain I was talking about earlier. And I can guarantee you, the view from here is amazing! If you don't have the marks, but are really interested in the field, explore your options. I believe the official pathway to the dental course is the La Trobe Bachelor of Health Science course, but it is not the only pathway. Pick a course you're interested in, and that way you will not be "forced to study" but "interested to learn". Re-apply the next year if the interest is still there. Persistence is the key. Keys open doors, feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t.

Once at uni, you will be shocked at the amount of resources at your possession. Use them, they are there for a reason. Ask questions, make friends, join clubs, socialise and go out – but also know your limits and study. But most important of all, be YOU. Uni years are potentially the best years of your make the most of them!

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