DHSV assistant breaking down barriers

Melissa Stevens
Melissa Stevens

Dental Health Services Victoria’s (DHSV) Dental Assistant Melissa Stevens is set to fulfil her dream of becoming a dentist, having been accepted in the Dentistry program at La Trobe University.

It’s a momentous achievement for Melissa, who will become the second Indigenous Dental Assistant to join La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Health Sciences in Dentistry program, after graduating from DHSV’s unique Indigenous Dental Assistant Traineeship program in 2013.

“At the moment it’s a bit surreal and I’m letting it all sink in,” Melissa said.

“I’m grateful for all that DHSV has done and for encouraging me to pursue my career further.”

“I have to say the traineeship has opened a lot of doors and really put me where I am today.”

Since Melissa joined DHSV, she has been a tireless advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health.

In May 2014, she won top honour for Indigenous Australian health professionals in training: the Koolin Balit Aboriginal Learner Award, part of the People in Health Awards.

“Over the last year, the number of Indigenous patients accessing care has jumped significantly in Victoria, and doing the rounds in the clinics and juvenile detention centres really makes that hit home.”

“People in our community need positive mentors and role-models to face the future. I want to show our community that it is really possible to go back to study, work hard, and succeed.”

Dr Deborah Cole, CEO of Dental Health Services Victoria
Dr Deborah Cole, CEO of Dental Health Services Victoria

DHSV CEO, Dr Deborah Cole, said Melissa has gone from strength to strength since joining DHSV’s Indigenous Dental Assistant Traineeship program.

“I’m incredibly proud of Melissa’s hard work in getting to where she is today and I hope that she will inspire other young Indigenous people to strive to be the best they can be,” Dr Cole said.

“In 2013/14, there was a 29% increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients accessing dental care in Victoria compared to the previous year.”

“DHSV is keen to boost our Indigenous workforce and we are working closely with organisations to ensure we are visible and accessible to as many Indigenous Victorians as possible,” Dr Cole said.

Melissa will join fellow DHSV Indigenous traineeship graduate, Michael Lawler, the first Indigenous student to be accepted in the La Trobe Dentistry program in 2014.

DHSV was also shortlisted in the Koolin Balit Aboriginal Health Workforce Initiative category at the 2014 People in Health Awards, proving itself to be a leader in creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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