Connected Conversations | Tamara Zhang

We took a drive to the Barossa Valley to chat with recent dentistry graduate Dr Tamara Zhang about working in hazmat gear, discovering the joys of cooking at home and how she hasn’t missed eating out as much as she thought she would.

Tamara Zhang

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Dr Tamara Zhang. I recently graduated from the Bachelor of Dental Surgery and am finishing off my Honours degree. I have a special interest in paediatric dentistry and I’m researching how birth order affects dental caries (decay) in South Australian children. Whilst studying part-time, I am also juggling full-time work as a dentist in the Barossa Valley. Any dentist would tell you that the first year out is one of the most challenging you’ll face in your career, but it’s definitely easier with a good glass of red at the end of the day!

What aspects of studying and learning online did you enjoy the most? And… what were the parts that you didn’t like?

Most of my Honours degree is self-directed learning and research so I haven’t really noticed any changes. I’m very lucky to have finished my dentistry degree just before the virus though. It’s a very hands-on degree where learning requires you to be in peoples’ mouths all the time, which is very difficult to do from 1.5 metres away and impossible to do online!

How do you manage your time while at home?

Unfortunately, I found myself being less productive. I find the more time I have on my hands, the more I procrastinate!

Is there anything from the past few months you would like to see implemented on a permanent basis?

I would like to see the permanent option of joining a lecture via Zoom. I wish this was available during my degree, 8 am lectures in the middle of winter were the worst!

All things considered; what good things have you discovered or learned during this time?

For me, I would only stay at home when I had nothing else to do. But when that became the only option, I found myself looking for something to do and trying new things. I consider myself to be a massive foodie, but I haven’t missed eating out as much as I thought I would. Instead, I’ve been cooking a lot with my boyfriend and trying out more complex recipes. A romantic dinner date is nice, but I’ve really enjoyed spending quality time cooking together… I think that the end result feels much more rewarding.

Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

Closed borders – all my family is back in Melbourne and this is the longest time I’ve gone without seeing them!

Strict protocols – every day when I get into work I have to answer a COVID-19 questionnaire that asks if I’ve been interstate or overseas. I was at work a little more than 12 hours ago and with all the borders are shut; where could I have gone?! I understand it must be done but I won’t miss it.

Choking on water and not being able to cough in public without horrified looks.

And the three things you won’t forget…

Cheap fuel. I miss it.

Treating patients in hazmat gear. The upside is I didn’t need to put in much effort in the mornings to applying make-up and doing my hair no one can see my face anyway!

The emptiness of public places.

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