(Published - 1 March 2019)
Janke Matthysen, Naadira Omar and Makhosazana Shabangu are three of the finest undergraduate Dentistry students at the University of the Western Cape - and worthy representatives for the Faculty’s first undergrad exchange with Olso University’s Dental School, where they will be spending the next two months.
“This is a golden opportunity for the development of these students in a global context - and we are hopeful that this is the beginning of an era where we increase the international exposure of our students,” said Prof Yusuf Osman, Dean of Dentistry at UWC.
As the biggest dental school in Africa and a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre, UWC Dentistry has always been sought out as partners for International students. The trip is the culmination of years of collaborative interactions between the Dental School at the University of Oslo and the Dentistry Faculty at the University of the Western Cape.
“This is an important day for the Faculty,” Prof Osman noted. “We’ve always had their students coming here - but we’ve never had the opportunity to send students to the other side.”
The students will fully immerse themselves in the Oslo programme at their level of expertise - and will be fully supported by UWC.
“There will be challenges, and everything won’t just fall into place...but remember, it’s not just you, it’s us - we’re all in it together,” Vivienne Wilson, Deputy Dean: Academic at the Faculty of Dentistry, told the students at a send-off function at Tygerberg Hospital.
The students selected are some of UWC’s finest, and all have their own reasons for undertaking this adventure.
Makhosazana Shabangu: Health and Hygiene Away From Home
A young woman from the small town of Secunda in Mpumalanga, Makhosazana chose to move 1600 km away to come to UWC because she has always enjoyed challenging myself - so the trip to Norway is not a surprise for her.
“When the time came to apply, I didn’t hesitate,” she notes. “I‘m looking forward to meeting people from all over the world, and I am very excited to network and hopefully make lasting relationships. I’m also looking forward to learning a new language.”
Makhosazana sees herself as one day becoming a specialist in the field of Prosthodontics, with plans of having her own practice and Dental technology lab.
“I took a gap year after matric, then applied to study a BSc at UWC before making the decision to pursue a career in Dentistry. I can confidently say that that was the best decision I ever made, because I have learned to appreciate and love this profession in a way I never imagined,” she says. “What I find most interesting about Dentistry is experiencing the amazing changes in our patients’ health, as well as the transformations that occur where we restore people’s confidence. It all begins with a great smile.”
Janke Matthysen: Dreaming of Dentistry
Since a visit to the dentist at age 14, Bellville-born Janke Matthysen has been intrigued with everything and anything dentistry-related. She studied BSc Medical Bioscience for a year (also at UWC) before being accepted into the BChD programme.
“I came to the realisation that it’s what I want to be doing in life,” she explains. “Since the day that I was accepted into dentistry, I’ve been loving every single moment of it. I learn something new on a daily basis: I’m a firm believer that we’re never too old to learn.”
She’s looking forward to learning on an international level - not only about the Norwegian approach to dentistry, but the culture and the experience as a whole.
“I really believe that whenever we get the chance to explore the world, we should not hesitate for one moment, as the value of gaining international knowledge and experience is immeasurable,” she says. “I have always wanted to act as ambassador for my university. I see this not only as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain knowledge on an international level, but also see it as an opportunity to apply this knowledge in the local context. All while doing what I love: dentistry.”
Naadira Omar: Forwarding the Family Tradition
Originally from Durban, Naadira Omar moved to Cape Town to pursue a career in dentistry - her parents were happy to have her carrying on the family tradition. Her great grandfather was a nurse, her mother is an oral hygienist and her elder sister is completing an internship in medicine.
“I’ve been exposed to dental-related work from a young age, but I didn’t know it actually impacted me until I came to university,” she says. “The thing that amazes me about dentistry is how holistic this career actually is - how your oral health has a big impact on your general health. Another aspect I thoroughly enjoy about dentistry is seeing your patient leave with a smile, and knowing you contributed to it.”
Naadira is looking forward to gaining a new insight into dentistry - learning new techniques, and figuring out knowledge regarding dentistry that she can apply.
“I couldn’t pass this experience up to learn in a new environment and experience new things,” she explains. “Dentistry is a very challenging career choice. The pressure of balancing clinics and theoretical work is hard, but when an opportunity comes your way to learn and gain knowledge on another level, you grasp it.”