Young local dentist beats the odds with cum laude

2019-01-16 06:01
Micaela Pauls, the recent summa cum laude dentistry graduate, who has received the South African Dental Association awards for being the top student in academic and clinical achievement.                         Photo:SUPPLIED

Micaela Pauls, the recent summa cum laude dentistry graduate, who has received the South African Dental Association awards for being the top student in academic and clinical achievement. Photo:SUPPLIED

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AFTER struggling to recover from an autoimmune condition that left her hospitalised for weeks every few months, a Port Elizabeth born woman has beaten the odds when she graduated summa cum laude in dental surgery.

Micaela Pauls was diagnosed with a life-threatening health condition called ulcerative colitis, during her first year at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town.

She, however, did not let this deter her and has received the South African Dental Association awards for being the top student with top academic and clinical achievements. She will now start her career as a community service dentist in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth.

Her road to success was paved with the constant battle of fighting her illness through chemotherapeutic treatment. However, her condition inspired her to give her patients the best treatment.

“When your body becomes your enemy, the battle is very difficult to fight. Spending weeks in hospital and taking chemotherapeutic medication to keep you out of hospital can take its toll – especially when the practical component of your curriculum is so demanding, as with dentistry.

“Despite the pain and discomfort, I always gave my patients the best treatment that I could. At the end of the day, they have their own pain and it is my job to alleviate it, with a caring and comforting smile on my face,” she said.

Although her first choice was to study actuarial science, people remained her passion and she decided to study dentistry to better the livelihood of others.

“The opportunity to solve problems and change lives that accompanies the title of ‘doctor’ has always been my passion.

“Finally, I was accepted to study dentistry and I grabbed it with both hands,” Pauls added.

Shortly into her first semester as a dentistry undergraduate, she was awarded a full bursary from the Eastern Cape Department of Health, which was a welcoming relief to her parents.

Pauls said, “These bursaries are few and an honour in itself. Needless to say, it motivated me even more and provided confirmation that everything was happening to the good of God’s plan.”

However, the workload towards studying dentistry became more demanding and stress took its toll on Pauls’ health. “Some days were more challenging than others, but if you cannot motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning, even when you are sick and weak, no one else will,” she said.

Pauls’ hard work, blood, sweat and tears have culminated in her being recognised as the top dentistry student, with the most distinguished clinical achievement and undergraduate academic career from her first to final year.

Pauls attended Clarendon Park Primary School and Victoria Park High School in Nelson Mandela Bay and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in dental surgery on December 14, 2018, from UWC.

“With the excitement of graduation also comes the melancholy of a chapter closing and another one opening.

“Bursting with pride, I was honoured to share my day and my success with my parents from Port Elizabeth and the people who have paved the way. The next page in my book will be written in PE as I start my career as a community service dentist in Kwazakhele. I am excited to dip my feet into the waters of the working world,” she said.

Pauls’ philosophy that a warm smile is the universal language of kindness, will be her inspiration as a dentist.

She added, “I believe it is the friendliest hello and the warmest goodbye. How blessed I am to be able to help people, young and old, to be able to smile again.”

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