Fear became a career for Dr Gavin Quek
Dr Gavin Quek is a dental surgeon who was once afraid of visiting his dentist.
As a child, he would dread check-ups and dental procedures, afraid of the sound of the drill and the way he felt trapped in the chair. Over time, however, his fear recast itself as curiosity and he began researching more about dentistry.
In 2017, Dr Quek came to Adelaide from Malaysia to pursue a degree in Dentistry, following his curiosity about the thing he had once feared. During his degree, he began volunteering with marginalised communities, curious as to why marginalised Australian communities have such poor oral health outcomes, compared to the majority, and how this affected their overall health in turn. “The more curious I became about how oral health contributes to overall health, the more I knew I could do even more outside of my surgery and in the community.”
Now, alongside his full-time work as a dental surgeon in Tasmania, Dr Quek offers pro bono dental treatments for people experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence. He provides free oral health education for refugees and migrants, in the knowledge that good oral health improves overall health outcomes. In 2022, he gave a TEDx talk about how curiosity drives contribution to society, as he has discovered in his own life.
“It is curiosity that drives us to seek new knowledge, new experiences and new perspectives. It is curiosity that pushes us to ask questions, to challenge assumptions and explore the unknown. It is curiosity that fuels creativity, innovation and progress."Dr Gavin Quek
Just two years after graduating, Dr Quek has been recognised for his significant contributions. He is Hobart’s Young Citizen of the Year, has been awarded the Heather and Christopher Chong Community Service and Volunteering Award, and was recently named the Premier’s Young Achiever or the Year in the Tasmanian Young Achievers Awards. He’s also a Fellow of Institute of Managers and Leaders ANZ (FIML), a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD) and a Fellow of the International Academy for Dento-Facial Esthetics, New York (FIADFE).
His advice to his younger self follows the theme of curiosity and exploration, but is characteristically humble. “Go out and experience more. Always try new things, because my best memories were when I decided to do something different from my normal routine.”
“Looking back, I am struck by the fact that all this came about simply because I allowed myself to be curious and to act on that curiosity in order to contribute to my community.”
Dr Quek says one of the most rewarding parts of this profession is “being a part of something bigger than myself.” He has ambitions to represent his profession at a higher level, and plans to continue his work advocating for oral health and inspiring others to make a positive difference in their own communities.
“Doing this work continues to provide me with a deep sense of fulfilment and purpose.”
Watch Dr Quek's talk from TEDx Hobart to hear more about his journey and his inspiring work.