Connected Conversations | Coral Yeung

After an offhand comment from a dentist, 18-year-old Coral Yeung uprooted her life in Mildura to study at the renowned Adelaide Dental School. Now in her final year of a Bachelor of Dental Surgery at the University of Adelaide, Coral hopes her final placement in picturesque Tasmania sets her up for a fruitful career in clinical dentistry.

Coral Yeung

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Coral Yeung and I’m currently in my final year of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery and a concurrent honours candidate. I was born in Melbourne and grew up in Mildura in regional Victoria. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to enter the health care field and fulfil my role in society by treating patients. I eventually settled on doing dentistry and, after a whirlwind five years, I am finally spending my last placement block in the picturesque Tasmania! 

For the last moments of my dental student career, you will find me in clinic 8.30 am-5.00 pm on weekdays, followed by an evening walk along the Mersey River. On the weekends, my placement group and I leave the township we’re staying in and explore Tasmania’s many waterfalls and hiking trails to recharge before seeing patients again on Monday.

Back in Adelaide, my days were filled with seeing patients four days a week, and running back and forth between the clinic at the Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences (AHMS) building and my murine-model research project in the Helen Mayo South building. For my honours, I am researching the effects of periodontitis (an oral inflammatory disease) on levels of short-chain fatty acids in the gut to elucidate the associations between periodontitis and multiple systemic diseases. We’ve found some exciting results and recently won the junior category in the Adelaide Dental School Colgate Poster Competition! In the evenings, I am attending as many dental extra-curriculars as I can to fit any last ounce of knowledge into my brain before I graduate.

During my time as a student, I have embraced the student experience at the University of Adelaide by playing basketball on the dental student team and have been a committee member in the student education branch of the Adelaide University Dental Student Society. When I find spare time I spend it obsessing over my best friend’s two bunnies, playing sports and catching up with friends over brunch and coffee (or ‘liquid life’ as I like to call it!). 

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide for your studies? 

Originally, I hadn’t even considered going to university in Adelaide as all my family and childhood friends lived in Melbourne so I thought I would reunite with them for my university years. As it turns out, Adelaide was a great choice as it’s not too far of a drive from my hometown of Mildura and (before COVID) I was able to take many convenient trips home in the holidays, which made moving to another state easier. 

What really influenced my choice of studying at the University of Adelaide’s dental school, other than being a direct-entry five-year dentistry degree, was its strong reputation on a clinically-focused curriculum and the fact that the principle dentist I was shadowing at the time said he would hire graduates from the University of Adelaide as they generally graduated clinically confident. I was obviously very impressionable at 18 years old and therefore applied to study dentistry at the University of Adelaide.

What has been your journey to get where you are today? 

Other than a brief period in Year 12, where I wanted to do mechatronics engineering, growing up I always wanted to go into medicine. At the end of Year 12, I happened to receive an interview for dentistry, which I was originally going to use as a practice interview for my medicine interview. However, I shadowed a dental practice for one week to prepare for my dental interview and the rest is history!

After graduating high school, I deferred my university offer for one year and spent my gap year in Taiwan, working for my father in a laboratory and studying Chinese at the National Taiwan University… although no one should ask me to speak or write Chinese now because I, regretfully, have regressed too much in the last five years! 

Coral Yeung

What inspired you to pursue a career in health?

There is an inexplicably rewarding feeling in the heart that I believe only comes from treating patients and connecting with them. Dentistry has a wide scope of practice, and you can range from treating a patient in excruciating pain, to a young healthy child in need of braces, to providing pre-radiotherapy consults to patients who have just been diagnosed with cancer. Over the years, I have found myself drawn to the specialties with the sick rather than healthy patients, which confirms to me that I would most enjoy a career in health care.  

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about your degree so far?

One of the things that has surprised me the most is how complex the oral cavity is. Before entering the degree, I thought dentistry was just about fixing a bunch of teeth and it turned out to be so much more complicated than that.  There are many different specialties in dentistry—I only knew of orthodontics (braces) when I first started—and, with it, comes a plethora of study across many different sciences and disciplines. 

Do you feel that now is a great time to be studying for a career in health?

I feel that it is always a great time to be studying for a career in health! COVID-19 and the global pandemic have been in the spotlight now, but other dental diseases and medical conditions have existed for ages. Whilst restrictions have made certain aspects of learning more difficult, a positive thing that has come out of the pandemic is that more patients value overall good health, which has made studying for this career feel much more rewarding. 

What TV show are you currently bingeing? 

Recently, I have started Dr Death on Stan which is currently serving as a huge reminder of how not to treat people. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I highly recommend it if you are in the mood to be shocked and outraged.

In saying that, I’m not as committed to watching TV shows as I am to watching YouTube vlogs. I like being able to watch ’real’ people live their lives and will binge vlogs of people I look up to or have aspects of themselves or of their lives that I’d like to emulate. In a way, I find it encouraging and interesting to watch how these people maintain their lifestyle and handle what life throws at them. 

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