An update from our recipient – Tasha Paul

Te Manu Toroa

Community Service Learning placement

In 2010, Te Manu Toroa became a provider for whānau ora which aimed to support and empower whānau across New Zealand as a whole rather than following a ‘one size fits all approach’.

Te Manu Toroa have a vision that Māori in the Western Bay of Plenty be healthy, confident, empowered and contributing to their communities,  kia tū pakari, tū maia hei potokomanawa mō te iwi (to be strong and courageous as people), and it has been my absolute pleasure to work alongside the staff there to achieve this.


Placements allow students to gain experience beyond that which is available in academic environments, supporting their relevance in contemporary times. Community-based clinical placements in dental schools achieve a number of objectives, encourage students to contribute positively to their communities and improve cultural awareness, ergo proving a a relevant part of the dental curriculum.

The incorporation of such placements within dental school programmes is furthermore felt by students to be beneficial to the development of their professional careers and many noted their experience as contributing to their confidence and experience as working as part of a dental team.

Perhaps, in order to see the big picture one needs to step outside the frame, and that is something these placements allow students to do.

In my previous blog I touched on the clinical services that were provided at Te Waka Niho at Te Wharekura O Mauao in Bethlehem. Following this, dental services were additionally provided at Te Waka Niho Tuatahi at Otepou.

During my time here I was able to conduct examinations on students and follow-up with their treatment. This generally involved preventative measures such as sealants and applications of topical fluoride as well as other treatment such as placing restorations.

The staff at both dental units were incredibly accommodating and a pleasure to work with.

It is important dental graduates are taught communication skills to achieve cultural awareness and competence and be adept in their ability to deliver care cross-culturally.

The expectation of graduates to possess such competency, communication skills and cultural sensitivity challenges the traditional structure of dental education and its typical focus on technical skills.

Students require training in areas beyond technical skills to perform well in community settings and it is recommended dentists be more knowledgeable about cultural diversity; a means of accomplishing this through community-based placement programmes.

Developing partnerships with Māori oral halth providers such as Te Manu Toroa offers students a culturally relevant learning opportunity.

This Community Service Learning placement programme has provided me with a unique experience to further contribute to my professional and personal growth. It has given me an insight into dental and other health services in the community and has fostered me a greater confidence and independence.

My placement has also give me the opportunity to be part of a Māori community and the chance to experience a different lifestyle, to meet new and interesting people and to move beyond comfort zones.

Many thanks again to MAS for the Dental Elective Scholarship. It allowed me to enrich personal experiences and develop my dental skills. My Community Service Learning placement not only provided me with a community health experience but a chance to see more of the country;  the MAS Elective scholarship contributed to travel around Tauranga and allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to me.

MAS Dental Elective Scholarship Recipient

Tasha Paul

Tasha Paul is in her fifth year of a Bachelor of Dental Surgery with Honours at Otago University. Tasha is our first recipient of the MAS Dental Elective Scholarship. She received $500 towards her Community Service Learning (CSL) placement in Tauranga with Te Manu Toroa Health Trust.

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