Mentoring eases the transition to professional practice

Dr Jodie Dobson (BDSc1995) and Kaya Kapusta (BBiomed2013) at the mentor program launch.

“I’m both excited and a little fearful,” says final year dentistry student Kaya Kapusta (BBiomed2013) about her imminent transition to life as a dentist. “It will be exciting to be working, but I am also aware that I will face a very steep learning curve as I try to find my place within the dental profession after I graduate.”

The transition to professional practice can be daunting for recent graduates. It is well understood that many of the ‘soft skills’ of professional life like networking, goal-setting and making connections with other professionals cannot be learnt in the classroom. It was with this in mind that the Melbourne Dental School launched a professional mentoring program in early 2017 with the support of a bequest from the Estate of the late Dr Peter Martin Johansen.

Professor Mike Morgan, Head of the Melbourne Dental School believes that the mentoring program represents a natural progression in the schools’ efforts to deliver the highest quality teaching and learning.

“A fully fledged mentoring program that pairs final year students with alumni in the profession is a holistic approach to education. It is also a rewarding opportunity for our alumni to remain connected with MDS and involved in our mission of educating the next generation of dental professionals.

“For both students and alumni this is an opportunity to shape the future of dental education at the University of Melbourne, as well as the future of our profession and our community,” says Professor Morgan.

Dr Jodie Dobson (BDSc1995) was excited to volunteer for the pilot mentoring program. It gave her the opportunity to become more connected with MDS and give back the gift of mentoring that she considers herself very lucky to have had working with her father
for 20 years.

“When I was approached to mentor, I jumped at the opportunity. I have always wanted to give back to MDS since leaving in 1995. Being a mentor is a great opportunity to engage with current students and the University. I feel I’m looking back at myself 20 years ago!

“I’m really enjoying seeing the world from Kaya’s perspective. Already I have loved learning how the dental course operates today, and how her year is structured.

“Mentoring allows me to spread my passion for dentistry and infect someone else with it. This one will be easy though, Kaya has already caught the bug!” says Dr Dobson.

For Kaya, the MDS mentoring program provides an opportunity to explore areas that interest her such as the intricacies of running a private practice. She is also gaining crucial insight into what matters to her in an employer and workplace while observing how established dentists foster a fulfilling work/life balance.

From April through to November 2017, the 23 final year students participating in the MDS mentoring pilot  (17 Doctor of Dental Science students and four Bachelor of Oral Health students) will meet with 23 volunteer alumni to informally discuss working in the dentistry profession and life after graduation. If the pilot is deemed a success, the program will be rolled out on a larger scale in the coming years.