Dentist brings a smile of hope
Tens of thousands of children in 25 developing countries are born with facial deformities each year. The work of one graduate promises to return their smile.
When Malaysian dentist Asilah Yusof graduated from the University of Adelaide in April, she raised the hopes of thousands of young Malay children affected by craniofacial abnormalities.
The PhD graduate is using her newly acquired postgraduate degree to help treat children with cleft lip and palate deformities, the most common form of facial abnormalities in Malaysians.
Her thesis findings will provide dental surgeons with a new set of measurements to help diagnose, treat and also improve the post-operative care of children with craniofacial abnormalities.
"Malays tend to have a shorter anterior cranial base, which may set up a wider palate and maxillary arch," Asilah said. "My PhD involved developing reference data of Malay children based on three-dimensional computed topography, comparing facial variables between males and females and also comparing the results with Caucasian populations."
Asilah's postgraduate studies were sponsored by her employer, the Universiti Sains Malaysia, where she is teaching dental students and furthering her research into craniofacial morphology.
She completed her Graduate Diploma in Clinical Dentistry at the University of Adelaide in 2000 after finishing an undergraduate degree at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Born and raised in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Asilah is the offspring of two health workers. She was inspired to study dentistry as a child after visits to the hospital clinic.
"I worked with the Ministry of Health Malaysia as a dentist after graduating in 1996 and spent a year working in a remote rural area, which opened my eyes to the facial deformities that affect many young children," she said.
Asilah joined the Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1999 as a trainee lecturer and was encouraged to return to Adelaide to study for her PhD in 2001.
"The dental school in Adelaide has an outstanding reputation, due to the excellent supervision provided by Professor Grant Townsend and Dr David Netherway," she said.
Asilah intends to use her PhD to continue her research into software development for craniofacial analysis and post-operative implant placements in the Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia.
She graduated at an offshore ceremony at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong on 13 April with 70 other students. ■