The University of Queensland
Preparing the future workforce to care for children’s oral health

Are you eligible for Breaking Barriers Category

SUMMARY

I am specialist paediatric dentist and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland I am a clinician, a teacher, and a researcher. My research deals with the improving the oral health of children. Additionally, I teach and train the future workforce – our dental students and senior high school students - to bring change in clinics as well as in communities.







BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

Training our future workforce to provide oral health education and awareness to the young child would benefit the children/parents and have wider impacts on Queensland communities. In addition to its health burden, the oral disease causes a substantial amount of economic burden and providing early education could improve the overall wellbeing of the child. 

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)
I encourage our future workforce, including novice dental students and senior high school students, to engage in oral health awareness programs for young children. I take my students from clinics to Queensland communities. In addition, I have conducted various oral health outreach programs for childcare facilities, state schools, and vulnerable communities. The impact is two-fold. It makes our future workforce advocate oral health and provides timely information to young children and their parents to prevent oral health-related problems. 
Furthermore, I provide career counselling and mentorship to the young Queensland girls, including those from refugee or immigrant backgrounds. As an immigrant female from a developing country, these young girls consider me their role model and look up to me for career advice. I inspire, encourage and motivate them to join STEM as their future career. 
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was instrumental in supporting young international female students from developing countries. I provided emotional and financial support via a “Pakistanis in Australia” management group member. I received recognition and an award for my efforts from the management of that foundation.
I am also the co-director of the “Al-Qalam Student Support Trust” which bears the educational expense of poor students from disadvantaged families in the developing country, Pakistan. Currently, this trust is sponsoring the entire educational costs of around 100 students (primarily underprivileged girls). 
I believe that my engagement and achievement have a positive and significant effect on the expectations of young females to work in the STEM field. 
 
ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

Oral health is an integral part of general health and wellbeing, and this notion is now becoming more widely recognised. It is recommended that oral health should be integrated into overall health care to prevent any oral health-related problems. Unmet oral health needs may lead to pain, discomfort, and difficulty to eat, sleep, and speak. They can also lead to psychological and economic impacts on children, their caregivers, and the health care system.
There are only 151 specialist paediatric dentists across Australia, and over a dozen in Queensland. This means approximately one specialist for every 42,500 Australian children is available. Due to the limited number of paediatric dental specialists in Queensland, there is a need to train students to increase the workforce. This approach is essential for providing a deep and enriching experience where novice dental students can learn outside of the clinical setting. 

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