Michelle and Amelia dedicate their time to helping others
We asked Michelle a bit about her charity work.
What volunteer programs have you been involved with through the ADA and how long have you been donating your time?
Amelia and I have been donating our time and practice facilities with the Australian Dental Health Foundation for a little over a year. We each see one patient per week and complete the full course of treatment required by the patient from initial consultation to treatment complete over as many appointments as it takes.
What prompted you to get involved initially and what drives you to volunteer today?
My practice had been open about a year and business was quieter than I had hoped. There was also a lack of variety in the types of treatment required by patients in our area. Amelia and I, therefore, had time on our hands and were concerned about keeping up our skills, so volunteering seemed like a good solution to address these issues for us.
We are also aware that we have both been so blessed in our lives in terms of our education and family support – financial, practical and emotional. Not everyone is so lucky to have such a solid base to spring from. The patients we see are trying to improve their lives and we want to use our valuable skills to support that.
How would you describe your volunteer responsibilities to someone who is considering volunteering? What are the major challenges and why is the cause worthwhile?
We treat our ADHF patients exactly as we treat any new patient who walks through our door, the only difference is that they don’t pay a bill at the end of their appointment. If our patient needs specialist referral we can organise that through the foundation or ask specialists we know if they are willing to see the patient on a pro bono basis. You aren’t expected to do any treatment that is outside your capability.
The major challenges are that you are giving up some of your time and resources when you could otherwise be earning money, and you do get a few patients not showing up or leaving the program all of a sudden. There are patients who have complex mental health issues, medical histories and social histories and this can be confronting or impact the ease with which you can provide treatment.
The cause is worthwhile because we have skills that can help to support our patients to improve their health, confidence and prospects. To be honest it doesn’t feel like we are giving that much, it’s just what we do every day in our jobs and what we love. But it is so rewarding to see the joy and increased confidence, among the other benefits, that our treatment can provide. We are also learning so much along the way. It is a really positive and life-affirming experience.
How to get involved
The National Dental Foundation (NDF) is a registered Australian charity that facilitates basic dental treatment to disadvantaged Australian people genuinely in need of dental care. Volunteer dentists and support staff donate their time and skills to provide treatment pro bono to selected patients either through a Dental Rescue Days (DRD) or Adopt a Patient program held at volunteer dental surgery locations across Australia.