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Patrick packs his bags for Dunedin

Samoan-born-and-raised senior dental assistant Patrick Soon has flown the coop to complete a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) at Otago University. Although a trained dentist in Samoa, Patrick was unable to practice in New Zealand. After working at The Fono Central as a DA for almost four years, The Fono is proud to be supporting Patrick in his career development to further his qualifications in Dunedin.

29-year-old father of three Patrick Soon is a trained dentist back home. Graduating from the Fiji School of Medicine, Patrick then practiced in Moto’otua Hospital Samoa before immigrating to New Zealand.

At first he struggled to find work, until he found The Fono.

“When I first arrived in New Zealand in 2014, I was struggling to find a job for almost six months.

“I was fortunate to have been offered a job at The Fono to work as a dental assistant.”

While he started as a receptionist, by 2016 he’d been promoted to senior dental assistant, in which he oversaw the work the dental team does.

While working at The Fono, Patrick always had the desire to eventually further his studies in the back of his mind.

Knowing he would need to study a Bachelor of Dentistry (BDS) at the University of Otago in Dunedin, Patrick was sceptical of moving his family South.

“In 2017 I applied to study a Bachelor of Oral Health at AUT and I was accepted into the programme.

“This was a step in the right direction in being able to give back to the community,” Patrick says.

It was important that he gain the New Zealand qualifications that would allow him to provide dental treatment and oral health education for people in need.

After completing the first year of the Bachelor of Oral Health, he was accepted to the Otago University Dentistry Programme.

In order to attend, he needed to leave The Fono. Although he says it was tough, it was also the right thing to do for his career and his family.

Patrick says he can’t thank The Fono family enough for supporting him on his career journey.

“These are the people that inspire me each day to strive for the best and to never lose sight of my goals.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent at The Fono in the company of good friends, but also the environment was great in that it helped me to learn something new every day.”

Not only was he able to find inspiration in his colleagues but working at The Fono allowed him to learn about and use the latest technology used in the dental profession.

Patrick was encouraged by The Fono’s Clinical Director of Dental Dr Mowafaq Amso to apply to Otago University’s BDS programme.

Patrick’s previous qualifications were recognised by Otago University and he received a cross credit, meaning he’s able to complete the five-year BDS program in three years.

“The Fono was very influential and supportive in helping me be where I am today,” says Patrick.

It is his hope to return to The Fono as a dentist once he graduates.

“I would love to return to The Fono as they have a lot to offer our Pacific people in terms of affordable dental services for those in need,” says Patrick.

“It would be a great opportunity for me to give back to the community.”

Mowfaq says The Fono is proud of Patrick.

“The entire dental team is immensely proud of Patrick’s achievement and wish him all the best,” says Mow.

“We cannot wait to see him practice as a dentist at The Fono.”