Education is key to improving rural dental health
For two years, Griffith dentistry graduate Dr Michael Baker was the coordinator of the Hope4Health program, providing free dental care to the community of Cherbourg, four times a year.
In the final two years of his degree, he and other Griffith dental students would pile their equipment into the back of utes and head west during the university holiday breaks.
Seeing over 100 patients during each visit, Michael and his team were giving care to a community desperately in need of help. The closest dentist to Cherbourg is over an hour away, with a waiting list that’s over two years long.
The program has increased the quality of dental care in the largely Indigenous community – focusing on dental health education, in addition to providing treatment.
“It is nice to see that we are making an impact in the community. There is a long way to go but we’re taking it in small steps and we will get there”, Michael says.
A Birri-Gubba-Yuggera man on his mother’s side, Michael wears the responsibility of being looked up to by a younger generation.
“I feel it’s important to give back to the community, but also to educate the younger people of Indigenous communities and basically be a role model”.
For his involvement in the initiative, Michael was a finalist for 2016 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.
No longer a part of the program, Michael now has his own dental practice in Toowoomba. Although his time is now devoted to his business, he’d one day love to go back and to continue helping communities in need.
The Cherbourg program is still running today, organised by current 5th year Griffith dental students.