By DOROTHY GARE
BECOMING a dentist never crossed Hilda Audubo’s mind – until she experienced a toothache during her first year at the University of PNG in 2004.
“At that time, I didn’t know dentists existed. And if they did, I did not how to find one.”
In 2005, she was one of the 18 students who began the Bachelor of Dental Surgery programme at the University of Papua New Guinea.
The girl from the small village called Pose in the Morobe Local Level Government in Huon Gulf district is today Dr Hilda Audubo, 35, a qualified dentist.
She attended the Morobe Community School from 1992 to 1997 doing grades One to Six.
She completed grades seven to 10 at the Bumayong Lutheran High School from 1998 to 2001.
In 2002, she was hoping to attend the new Wawin National High School for Grade 11 and Grade 12. But Bumayong Lutheran High had also become a secondary school and allowed her to continue there.
In 2004, Hilda entered UPNG as a Science Foundation student. That was when she experienced her first toothache.
She was scared and did not know what to do because she was a village girl. Towards the end of that year, she attended a roadshow at the Waigani campus and heard about the School of Medicine and Health Sciences new Bachelor of Dental Surgery programme. She decided to join it.
“It was exciting and fascinating to embark on the new study programme.”
She applied and was accepted for a spot in 2005 with 17 other pioneer students.
She attended the dental school for four years, completed a two-year residency term, and became a registered dentist in 2011.
She worked for two years at a provincial hospital but left because of internal issues she would rather stay away from.
Hilda was accepted for an Australia awards scholarship and went to Australia where she completed a Masters of Public Health and Masters of Business Administration in 2014 and 2015.
“They say a curious mind never stops learning or limits to one specific interest. Basically, that’s me. Today I still think that I kind of stumbled across dentistry by accident. But I also like to believe that maybe there are no accidents, because so far, I have never regretted embarking on this path.”
She loves dentistry as it is an “amazing, exciting and fulfilling field”.
“There’s a lot to learn and explore in the field of dentistry. Having said that, I have been exposed to working with many dental professionals from overseas through volunteer work.
“I know that dentistry is a highly-technical specialist area. One day I want to see dentistry in PNG delivered at such class and level of quality in each super speciality area.”
One thing that really excites her about dentistry in PNG “is the mystery currently surrounding it”.
Dentistry is a new speciality area in the health sector involving complicated technology than tooth extraction alone.
“ Today I still think that I kind of stumbled across dentistry by accident. But I also like to believe that maybe there are no accidents, because so far, I have never regretted embarking on this path.”
“This is the beauty that intrigues me and always keeps me excited to be doing what I do in this profession. In addition, there is a good money in dentistry especially going into private practice. Dentistry is a gold mine.” (Laughs)
One thing she still has to overcome is the “fear of the unknown and the fact that I didn’t really see my path clearly”.
“I was afraid of not getting a job after graduation and thought of moving overseas to secure a job because I didn’t really see a career path in dentistry in PNG at that time. What challenged me the most was to look for a hospital to do my residency. I had to move around personally.”
The run-down facilities she saw in hospitals motivated her to continue and complete the journey “and create something beautiful out of it”.
Her advice to young women and girls wanting to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is: “Please, do not ever allow fear and intimidation from a society perceived as male-dominated to limit you from truly reaching your full potential in anything you dream of in life. Aim for the stars!
“I promise you that the journey and all its challenges are actually really fun and fulfilling at the end of the day.”
To think that this village girl’s journey all began from a simple toothache at university makes her story just so inspiring to hear.