Scholarship helps fulfil dentistry dream

An $80,000 scholarship has moved a Swan Hill student closer to realising his childhood dream of becoming a dentist.

Daniel Hughes, 19, who was dux of Swan Hill College with an ATAR of 99.75, will start a Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus in March. Daniel is committed to gaining the qualification so he can help improve health outcomes in regional Victoria.

Without the prestigious PSA Insurance Program in Dentistry for Rural Victoria Scholarship, Daniel’s mother Wendy Hughes said financial hardship would have made it impossible for him to attend university.

“Daniel is the first member of our family to go to university, and until we heard about the scholarship, we really didn’t know if he’d be able to,” Ms Hughes said.

Ms Hughes is a single mother of three, and full-time carer for Daniel’s younger brother, Jackson, who has serious health issues.

She said the joy and relief she has felt since the receiving news of the scholarship is hard to describe.

“I’m incredibly grateful; I get emotional just thinking about it. Daniel is one of those kids who has always known what he wanted to do from a really young age, and was determined to make it happen.

“He’s been so focussed on working hard to get into this course, we’ve basically been looking at the back of his head for the past two years,” Ms Hughes said.

Daniel said his ultimate dream is to improve the lives of children living in regional communities.

“I’d love to bring my skills back to rural Victoria and give back to the local community-especially to children from low socio-economic backgrounds.

“During my work experience with a local dentist, I saw kids who had never owned a toothbrush, and had black stumps where their baby teeth should be.

“It isn’t fair that these children are suffering because of a limited access to services in rural areas, and a lack of widespread oral health promotion – so I would love to be part of changing that,” Daniel said.

Dentistry Coordinator at La Trobe University, Dr David Goode, said the scholarship supports the University’s aim to enrol more regional students, hopefully producing more regionally based practitioners upon graduation.

“Because of the intensity of the course – particularly the final two years which involve work placements across regional Victoria – our dentistry students have a limited capacity to work while they complete their studies.

“A scholarship like this removes some of those financial constraints, and makes study in Bendigo more accessible for passionate and high-achieving regional students like Daniel,” Dr Goode said.

One of La Trobe’s most prestigious and generous awards, the PSA Insurance Program in Dentistry for Rural Victoria Scholarship is sponsored by Victoria Medical Insurance Agency Ltd (VMIAL).

CEO of VMIAL, Mr Sylvain Mani, said the organisation is thrilled to be able to provide Daniel with the opportunity to fulfil his dream of improving the dental health of children from rural communities.

“He is a most deserving student, and our financial support of his studies through to graduation go to the heart of what VMIAL is all about – supporting projects that benefit doctors and dentists in a tangible way.

“We’ve been doing that for the better part of 93 years and our thanks and good wishes go to Daniel for his determination and commitment to rural health,” said Mr Mani.

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