06 March 2020

Celebrating leading women on IWD 2020 - A/Prof Rachel Martin

In the lead up to International Women's Day (IWD) on Sunday 8 March, we're profiling leading ADAVB and eviDent women. We spoke with new Head of Department, Dentistry and Oral Health, La Trobe University, A/Prof Rachel Martin.

Describe your new role as Head of Dentistry and Oral Health at La Trobe University

I have just begun my role at the Rural Health School in the historic gold mining town of Bendigo and I feel I have discovered a golden nugget of wealth. Our students come from diverse communities across rural and regional Victoria, and whilst dentistry and oral health is taught in Bendigo, the school has three other regional campuses, teaching most of the health disciplines. I will be continuing to support the incredible work of the dedicated staff here, producing career ready graduates for the new world of oral health, focused on reducing the inequities between rural and urban health outcomes. I can unashamedly say that we are the “Best Dental School in the country”, whilst Melbourne University, of course, remains the “Best Dental School in the city”. I am most excited by the opportunities ahead collaborating with others to ensure oral health is no longer left out of the overall health picture.

How has the dentistry workforce changed since you studied and throughout your career?

When I studied, the emphasis was on dentists treating patients. Over my working life, there has been a shift towards a team approach where collaboration between all members of the oral health and wider health team occurs whilst working in partnership with the consumer. This, along with a preventive approach, is the change that will make the biggest difference to oral health outcomes for our community.

Tell us about your pathway throughout your leadership journey.

I was brought up in a family where we were instilled with a strong sense of social justice. I had always wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference in people’s lives. This has led to my passionate conviction that change is needed in our approach to oral health care in order to address inequity in health. I have found wonderful colleagues and mentors on the journey and we are brought together through sharing the common goal of improving oral health for all.

Describe an inspiring woman in your life who has made an impact on you.

My mother was a woman of abundant grace and determination. She was a practising physiotherapist and gained a theology degree whilst the six of us children were still at school. From treating disabled children and premature infants as a physio, she moved into ethics and created the inaugural role of bioethicist at Mercy Hospital, East Melbourne in the late 1980s. There she worked with families and clinicians, patiently supporting them through issues of life and death. Despite her early death at 57 years old, she had a life full to the brim of love and faith, adventure and achievement. She made a difference in countless people’s lives, through easing their physical and spiritual pain.

How can dentistry students get involved in leadership before they start their career?

I’m amazed at all the additional things that students do beyond any dental activities. They seem to be taking up so many opportunities, from involvement with student clubs and sports, to volunteering locally, regionally and internationally. Engaging and building strengths and connecting with people will help build you to become a good leader. Leadership spans across careers and life.

What do you say to women considering taking the step into leadership with the ADAVB?

ADAVB has excellent people and resources that will help you build leadership skills. No matter how young you are or how unsure you may feel about your ability to contribute, you should step out there and take a chance. I encourage you to embrace the many opportunities there within the ADAVB.

Further information about career development and leadership

ADAVB Groups

Health Sector Leadership Program - applications opening soon

Mentoring - applications close 12 March 2020

Committees - apply today!

Council - nominations open in April