Come learn about what it is like being an OHT in Aotearoa/New Zealand in this interview with Colgate Advocates Christine Murthi and William ‘CJ’ Carlson-Jones!
CJ: In this interview series of ‘Oral Health Around the World’, we chat with Christine Murthi, fellow Colgate Advocate for Oral Health, and Oral Health Therapist (OHT) in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Christine, thank you for agreeing to chat with us today, to talk about your experiences as an Oral Health Therapist (OHT) in Aotearoa/New Zealand! Before we get started, can you tell me about your experiences prior and leading up to your entry into oral health? Where did you study your Bachelor of Oral Health ? What made you choose to study Oral Health? Did you do anything prior? And have you undertaken any further education?
Christine: I knew from an early age that I wanted a career where I helped people and made an impact. This led me first to study pharmacology and psychology straight out of school, which then further developed into education, as I became interested in teaching through tutoring university students. I found that I needed to explore this further but always felt this wasn’t the end goal. Teaching became a transformative journey, where I discovered a plethora of skills and platforms. Although this was an enjoyable part of my career I wanted something more hands-on.
It was when I left teaching that I was introduced to oral health. I enjoyed working as a dental assistant and was encouraged by our clinical team leader to pursue a career in oral health. It was a big decision, but what helped me connect with my passion for dentistry was my volunteering experience in Fiji. The Fiji medical camps provided a perfect environment to accelerate my journey towards becoming an OHT. I wanted to combine my experience in teaching with oral health to motivate people to take better care of their oral health. So after 2 years of dental assisting in New Zealand and Australia I enrolled into the Bachelor of Health Science in the Oral Health programme at Auckland University of Technology To further my knowledge, I have also enrolled into the Masters in Health Science programme.
CJ: Wow! That is incredible! I am amazed by the fact prior to starting Oral Health Therapy, you already had qualifications in education and pharmacology! And now you are branching into public health; a real jack of all trades!
So with all those incredible skills I feel you would be invaluable to many employers. Can you tell me about your current work roles that you have?
Christine: I work as an OHT in a private clinic based in North Shore, Auckland and also part of the Colgate Advocates for OralHealth. Those are my two main roles at the moment. Last year, I also worked as a clinical educator in the Oral Health department at AUT. This was a very exciting opportunity to work with our future OHTs and I learnt a lot from this experience.
CJ: Could you tell me what do you enjoy the most about being an OHT in Aotearoa/New Zealand? And have you worked overseas as an OHT?
Christine: I think the most enjoyable thing about working as an OHT is that I get to interact with different cultures. I love getting to know my patients and their background. Aotearoa/New Zealand is such a culturally diverse environment, that every interaction with patients and their families captures my interest in some way. I feel like that it always keeps me on my toes because it challenges me to think how I can connect with my patients so I can help them reach their oral health goals. I also love the clinical aspect, learning about different cases. In our unique environment I’m always looking for learning opportunities that will help me improve my clinical skills and provide better treatment for vulnerable groups. I am interested in the new laser technology and botox administration. It has opened up opportunities for OHTs to upskill.
CJ: Lastly, Christine, would you be able to tell us in your opinion what do you think are the main factors that have shaped the evolution of the Oral Health Therapy profession in Aotearoa/New Zealand to what it is today?
Christine: I think the Oral Health Therapy profession has been shaped by many factors, such as historical, social, political and healthcare-related. Our profession evolved due to the oral health needs of children and this influenced the scope of practice. The changes in government policies and legislation, along with the changes in curriculum/training has ensured that the needs are met. Another driving factor is the advocacy from professional organisations such as the New Zealand Oral Health Association, NZOHA which have been instrumental in advancing the interests of OHTs. These organisations have promoted the professions growth and recognition. The changing demographics of Aotearoa/New Zealand and its diverse population are influencing OHT’s, education/training programs, curriculum and oral health. As a profession we will always adapt and evolve to meet the needs, challenges and opportunities. Globally, oral healthcare practices, ongoing research and advancements in dental care play a role in shaping the standards and practices of OHTs in Aotearoa/New Zealand. And, I think with the recent changes in the political landscape it will evolve again to integrate OHTs in the broader healthcare system.
CJ: Thank you so much Christine for sharing your incredible journey and giving us some insights into what it is like being an OHT in Aotearoa/New Zealand! I know your story will inspire many of us in the profession!
Christine Murthi is an Oral Health Therapist based in New Zealand. She is currently studying a Masters in Health Science at Auckland University of Technology. Prior to this she had secondary teaching/tutoring experience spanning more than ten years. Through this teaching experience combined with her diverse cultural background she has developed a passion for promoting diversity in clinical practice, overcoming communication barriers and connecting with the community. As a member of the Colgate Advocates for Oral Health: Content Community, her contributions to the dental community aim to promote good oral health for all and keeping a healthy smile for life.
William 'CJ' Carlson-Jones is an Oral Health Therapist currently working as a lecturer with the University of Sydney teaching in their Bachelor of Oral Health program. Completing his Bachelor of Oral Health, Graduate Certificate in Oral Health Science, and Master of Business Administration CJ has strong aspirations to facilitate accessible, high quality dental care for all Australians. CJ has also commenced further studies undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies (Higher Education) at the University of Sydney and a Doctor of Philosophy with the University of Queensland. His research will focus primarily on the impact the transitional workforce from dental therapist to oral health therapist might have upon consumers, public dental services, tertiary institutions, and regional areas. He is the incoming President for the Australian Dental Oral Health Therapists’ Association (ADOHTA) and is a strong advocate for a team approach to dental care. CJ continues to strive for high-level corporate governance through his membership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). He is a founding representative on the Colgate Advocates for Oral Health: Editorial Community.