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Outstanding young dentist for 2013.

A Northland dentist has been named as New Zealand’s outstanding young dentist for 2013.

Dr Ellen Johnson was presented with the Outstanding Young Dentist Award at the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) conference in Rotorua this month.

The award, established eight years ago, recognises young members of the NZDA under the age of 35 who, through their effort or initiative, have made a significant contribution to the dental profession, excelled in their own career reflecting positively on the profession, have acted and are likely to continue to act, as ambassadors for the profession and have contributed their skills to the wider community.

Ellen, 28, says she was truly honoured to receive such a prestigious award after being nominated by her Northland branch and president Dr Amanda Johnson.

“This award will give me the opportunity to speak at conferences and it will help lift the profile of public health dentistry in Northland.”

One of Ellen’s many roles has included mentoring the two Northland DHB house officer positions, lecturing and speaking at conferences and university dentistry students. She is currently the Northland NZDA branch secretary – a role vital in helping to link hospital and community dental services with the private practicing dental community of Northland.

In addition she works for Mobile Surgical Services, which provide paediatric general anaesthetic care for children in some of the more remote parts of Northland. Ellen has also undertaken small projects helping to improve the oral health of Northlanders and set up a tooth-brushing programme on a remote island in Vanuatu.

All this while studying for her masters in community dentistry.

From the age of 10 Ellen decided to become a dentist. “It was possibly inspired by my orthodontist – I had head-gear like Lisa Simpson – so goodness knows why but it fascinated me.”

Her passion for dentistry and public health led her to Otago University where she graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of dental surgery. Following this she became Northland’s first dental house officer, before securing her current role as community dentist for Northland DHB. Her job entails delivering hospital and community dental services around Northland to children, medically-comprised patients and low-income adults.

“I enjoy helping people. Someone will walk in after having toothache for weeks or sometimes years and it can be fixed instantly.

There is a lot of job satisfaction with what I do. Often we also get to see the whole family which gives us the opportunity to enroll the children in the school dental system and encourage ongoing dental care.”

Ellen says her job involves treating medically-comprised patients who cannot otherwise be treated in a private practice, trauma cases, children and tricky surgical procedures.

“Every patient is different, and has their own story. There is technology involved - materials and techniques are constantly changing. With the DHB you work all over the north and it’s often a different clinic every day or two.”

At the awards ceremony, Ellen was presented with a carving made from a 2000-year-old piece of Totara donated by the carver Delanie Brown who interpreted the ideals and values of the NZDA into his masterpiece.

Ellen will hold her title for two years, the role of which involves speaking at the 2014 Conference and to peers and students. She is grateful for the continued support from Northland DHB oral health services team, her friends and family.

“I would like to thank Amanda Johnson and the Northland NZDA branch for the nomination and I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Northland NZDA branch committee.

“I thoroughly enjoy living, working and being a part of the Northland community. I can’t understand why everyone doesn't want to be a dentist!”


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