Words of Wisdom

The MDHS Mentoring Program helps the next generation of dentists learn from those in the industry.

Final year Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) student, Emmy Li, was matched with Melbourne Dental School alum, Dr Christopher Tan (BDSc 2007), who is based in Singapore, as part of the MDHS Mentoring Program. Throughout 2022, they have shared experiences and insights with mentor and mentee both learning from each other.

Emmy: “I decided on dentistry quite late in life, when I was halfway through my masters in neuroscience. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into medicine or academia until a friend’s sister, a dentist, let me shadow her. I hadn’t considered dentistry until then, but I saw how she talked to patients and explained oral health to them, and I found the hands-on work quite artistic, too. It united arts and science which are two of my passions.

In my final year of the DDS, I learned about the Mentoring Program and thought it was a good opportunity to connect with someone who was outside the academic sphere. I had questions that didn’t have black and white answers, like what are the expectations of a new grad? How do you create work-life balance? What are the advantages of owning a practice or being an associate? Those aren’t necessarily questions you can ask a professor during a lecture.

Chris always offers a new perspective. We are the COVID generation – we missed out on clinical exposure and practice, so my cohort is hungry to get experience in complex procedures before graduating. Chris slows me down and reminds me that smaller procedures, like a clean, are equally important because that’s when you build rapport with a patient. I can get overly eager, and Chris shows me a new way of looking at things!

Chris has also helped me figure out what is important to me. My generation is more about quality of life and balance. I want to be able to pursue things outside dentistry. I started dancing when I was five and founded a not-for-profit company that supports street artists during COVID. Chris has helped me think about how I can grow professionally and maintain that part of my life, too.

I’ve been applying for jobs and Chris has helped me with that process. I’d definitely recommend the Mentoring Program – it’s an opportunity to build a friendship beyond university and I am sure I will keep sending Chris questions!”

Chris: “I’ve been involved with the mentor program now for about five years. I received an email from the University of Melbourne looking for mentors and I thought it was a way to keep in touch with the University, to meet new DDS students and to stay up to date with the latest developments in dentistry in Australia.

The mentees teach me a lot. I see what they think and, as a practice owner, it gives me insight into what younger graduates care about, what their priorities are and what they expect from a practice. I’ve stayed in touch with a number of graduates that I’ve mentored.

Each graduate group has different perspectives to when I graduated in 2007. Learning that helps me communicate better with the younger associates in my practices. I’ve noticed many changes. In the past, as younger associates, we wanted to be the principal of the practice. These days, younger associates want to learn but they are seeking quality of life and time to follow passions outside of dentistry, too. I know Emmy is keen to find that balance.

When I graduated, I wanted to get as much exposure to dentistry as possible. My wife also graduated from the University of Melbourne and we returned to Singapore and I set up a dental practice and we were bogged down by that. It was only after several years that I had time to follow other interests – until then it was dentistry and nothing but dentistry!

I find the Mentoring Program very rewarding. It allows you to build a relationship with a student who can give you a lot of perspective and you never know if those students may one day become your colleagues.”


The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences launched the Faculty-wide mentoring program for final year students in 2020. This year, over 300 alumni have mentored students as part of the program, helping to transform the University experience for final year students and support them as they embark on their own career journeys.

Express your interest in the 2023 MDHS Mentoring Program today.