Oral Health: Bree Jones

With the encouragement of her high school science teacher, Bree Jones followed her love of science all the way to a career in oral health academia.

Bree Jones

Bree Jones is a lecturer and PhD candidate in oral health at the University of Melbourne. She spends her days teaching and mentoring current oral health students, studying for her PhD and treating clinical patients.

Why the University of Melbourne?

I developed a love of science due to my amazing biology teacher, Mr. Egan. I grew up in a low SES area and was from an underrepresented high school, and he encouraged me to apply for university.

During my Bachelor of Science, I held part-time work as a dental assistant, which is where my interest in oral health stemmed from.

What are your strongest memories of your time at the University of Melbourne?

I have many fond memories of the University, so it is hard to choose.

The best would be the friendships I developed during my Bachelor of Oral Health. It was a small cohort degree, and the cohort experience, support, and close relationships with teaching staff helped me develop a real sense of belonging to the University.

Tell us more about your role and how you got there.

My role as an academic began when an opportunity came up within the Bachelor of Oral Health to do casual tutoring. This was shortly after I graduated, and I was working clinically as an Oral Health Therapist.

I was contacted by one of the staff in the program who knew I had expertise in anatomy through my science degree and would be well suited to support oral health students in this topic. This then led to a lecturing position, and component coordination responsibilities.

I went on to work as the discipline lead for Bachelor of Oral Health (Holmesglen) through Charles Sturt University. During this time, I developed a good understanding of TAFE operations and how they differ from universities.

After my beautiful children were born, I returned to the University of Melbourne in 2019 as a year level coordinator into the Bachelor of Oral Health. I wanted to return to the University to advance my interests in curriculum development, assessment and educational design and commence a PhD in oral health research.

What goals did you set yourself when you finished university? Have you stuck to that plan?

My career has been somewhat serendipitous. I think because I have been open to opportunities and willing to learn and fail, I have been able to have a diverse and interesting career – both as a health professional and in education.

What does a normal day look like for you?

This varies so much, especially now that I am studying. It is incredibly broad and diverse, and very interesting.

A day in the clinic could mean starting at 8am, finishing at 6pm, and seeing patients all day.

A day at MCRI involves seeing research participants, attending research seminars and meetings, writing my thesis and publications, and seeking supports from mentors and supervisors. I may also have meetings discussions with SAC members on projects we are working on.

At the University it involves teaching lectures, tutorials, developing resources, collaborating on research and projects.

What drives you to do your best at work?

Knowing that my work will benefit students’ experience, enhance their understanding and help them make connections.

I’m also motivated by knowing my work will improve patient outcomes – both through competent graduates who care, and through my research in early disease identification.

What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge for me is my own self-criticism.

I think sometimes we set such high expectations for ourselves, and this can slow progress as we then get caught up in wanting to be perfect. So, it’s about taking a step back, really examining those thoughts and realising that doing something imperfect is better and makes more progress than doing nothing.

What advice do you have for current students?

Talk to other students, seek out like-minded friends, and develop support networks.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make mistakes, or admit if you don’t understand or are struggling. The more you speak up and connect to others, you will realise you are not alone in your experience, and you will feel more connected to others.