Ora Toa Dental Service is part of the Ngāti Tia Rangatira, and my placement was at the Ashburton branch. Picking Ashburton was a spur of the moment decision based on gut feeling, and looking back there are no regrets. 

The working experience

We were welcomed by a lively and professional team comprising of two dentists, one clinical dental technician, two dental assistants, two receptionists, and one practice manager. What struck me most initially was the unique organising system they used – from pocket-sized cards to the apple-windows fusion computer system. 

There we saw patients from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, mainly young adults and older. Because Ashubrton is a city with people of various professions – from city office jobs to farmers or factory managers, it was particularly interesting to interact with people from all walks of life and hear different stories daily. 

Everybody, particularly the patients we had the pleasure of serving were absolute angels. One of them in particular was incredibly sweet and patient, and wanted to pay more than the usual fee!

While it is usually nice to see familiar faces regularly in dental school, it was a refreshing eye-opener to meet different people every day and hear their many stories. 





Needless to say, we also learnt a lot under the patient guidance of the lead dentists, who always took time out to expain various concepts, tips and tricks. Probably the most memorable experiences for me were of challenging extractions, one of which was a four-rooted taurodontic tooth. 

The community of Ashburton 

Being in Ashburton also introduced me to a very strong sense of community spirit. Coming from a big city where there is much hustle and bustle 24/7, it was amazing to bear witness to a community that is so friendly and helpful to one another. 

I was told that when a lady could no longer visit the hairdresser due to a disability, her hairdresser makes the effort to go to her house regularly instead. I personally had the fortune of experiencing this grace and friendliness of the town.

There would be greetings as we walked past strangers who were also on their way to work, there was weekly invitations to lunch or dinner with the church. Some highlights were a cross-cultural dinner where everybody brought difference cuisines as potluck, and a day scootering out and playing with the pet guinea pigs, as well as a beach movie outing where dolphins were sighted!

Asburton, although a small town, had much to offer and I'd often lose track of time playing on the flying fox on my way home, visiting the snowy hills and beautiful city of Methven, or the Alpaca farm. 

It was a joy experiencing the professional work life in Ashburton alongside a fantastic dental team, as well as bonding with the community over food, stories of travel and aspirations for the future. 




I am deeply grateful for this valuable opportunity to visit Ashburton on placement and to be so warmly received by the community.

Most importantly, thank you MAS for your guidance and support, providing me with the financial freedom to explore the area and cook to my heart's delight – be it curry or rendang, laksa or many cheesecakes for potlucks and gatherings with the community. 

Selina Soon

5th year Dental Student, Otago University School of Dentistry.

Hi there! I'm Selina, a fifth (and hopefully final) year dental student, 'full-time' foodie and 'part-time' adventure junkie. 

As much as I enjoy unwinding in the comfort of home and experimenting for the perfect recipe in the kitchen, I'm often drawn to the numerous scenic treks and activities and am always plotting future getaways for when budget permits!

Hence, I'm really thankful for this MAS Elective Scholarship in allowing me to engage in activities with the community with a financial peace of mind. 



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