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Address at the Fiji Dental's Association 50th Anniversary Gala.

August 29, 2020       Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva.

The New President of the Fiji Dental Association, Dr. Parish Naidu;

The Former President of the Fiji Dental Association, Dr. Vikash Singh;

The President of the Fiji College of General Practitioners,  Dr. Ram Raju; 

The President of the Fiji Medical Association, Dr. Basharat Munshi; 

The Colgate Palmolive (Fiji) Ltd General Manager, Mr. Hiten Lal; 

Distinguished Speakers; 

Generous Sponsors;

Members of the Organizing Committee;

Distinguished guests, Participants;

Ladies and gentlemen.

Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Asalaamu Alaykum, Noa’ia ‘e Mauri, and a very good evening to you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, my wife Sarote and I are so honoured and equally grateful to be invited to join you tonight as you gather together from other parts of our beloved country to commemorate and celebrate 50 years – The Golden Anniversary of the Establishment of The Fiji Dental Association and its valuable contributions to Dental Care and Oral Health of all Fijians. 

At the outset, please allow me to convey our personal Congratulations and that of Government and all our citizens to the Fiji Dental Association Management and all its National Members in the Private Sector, The Ministry of Health & Medical Services and the Fiji National University which is now the National Tertiary Institution charged with the training and higher education of our present and future Dental Officers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it will be remiss of me if I do not, at this stage also acknowledge, commend and congratulate the newly appointed President of the Fiji Dental Association, Dr. Parish Naidu on his being handed over the reigns of Leadership and Management from the former President, Dr. Vikash Singh whom I believe did a sterling job during his tenure as your President of The Association.

To The Association’s newly appointed President Dr. Parish Naidu, I would like to also wish you well and every success as you assume your role as the ‘new Captain of The Ship’ which you are expected to sail into some “unchartered waters” as you manoeuvre it through many challenges in the Association’s collective efforts to improve service deliveries to members of our various communities who are now becoming more selective and critical of the overall national Health Care System.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is always an honour and pleasure as your President/Head of State to attend such an auspicious and historic occasion like tonight’s Gala Night in which one has the opportunity to meet so many professionals and like-minded individuals like your goodselves, but more importantly to thank you individually and collectively for your tremendous progress and achievements and contributions to good Oral Care/Health for all Fijians.

It is also a very momentous and memorable event worth commemorating and celebrating given the dedication and sacrifice that your predecessors and the present generation of your colleagues had done and continue to do in improving the health and well-being of our citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture, please allow me to take us back through ‘Memory Lane’ and remind us once again about the short history and humble beginnings of the Dental Association and Dentistry in Fiji.

Dental training in Fiji began in 1945 when Fiji’s Colonial Administrators and Government established the Central Medical School and included in its Medical training Syllabus/Curriculum a four – 4 years Course for Assistant Dental Practitioners.

This early pioneer Training Initiative was progressively modified and upgraded to a 4 years Diploma Dentistry Programme for Fiji’s first qualified Dentists.

Within the Health and Medical Sector, the Field of Dentistry and other associated Disciplines were subsequently reviewed over the past five decades and expanded to include Dental Therapists, Dental Hygienists, Junior Dental Assistants and Dental Technicians.

In 1993, a 5 years Under-Graduate Bachelor in Dental Surgery Programme was introduced and became the first Degree Programme for Dentistry in Fiji.  This was followed in 2013 with the inclusion of another Under-Graduate Course in Bachelor of Oral Health.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been reliably informed that the local development and training in Dentistry culminated in 2017 with the introduction and conduct of a Post-Graduate Programme of Masters in Oral Surgery.

Undoubtedly, tremendous and commendable development and progress has been achieved in the field of Dentistry in Fiji and I believe that the vast majority of Dental Practitioner who are present here tonight are the products of our Fijian Oral/Dental Education Systems – a deservedly proud, well trained and qualified select group of professionals and alumna of our National University and Dental School.   

Ladies and gentlemen, as a small and developing Nation, I contend that we can all be justifiably proud of our progress in the Field of Dentistry and we should continue to appreciate and support our Dental Practitioners and their invaluable contributions to Fiji’s overall Nation-Building efforts.

In this regard, may I congratulate and commend the Fiji Dental Association for all its achievements, particularly its Dental Practitioner Members who are the products of our Institutions and whom I believe, we can refer to as another group of professionals who are making their mark in society as we collectively promote the “Made-in-Fiji’’ brand.

The Fiji Dental Association, comprising of Dental Practitioners from the Private Sector, Government and Academia was initially established prior to 1970, to primarily provide collegial support and enhance the development and growth of the dental work force and care for our People.

It was formally and legally acknowledged and recognised as the Fiji Dental Association on the 12th November 1971 by an Act of Parliament – The Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (CAP 225) and officially mandated to be responsible for the welfare and professional development of its members to preserve and promote the Oral Health of our communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, today the Fiji Dental Association continues to contribute positively to Fiji’s overall National Development in the Health and Medical Sector by bringing in all the Dental Practitioners under the ambit of The Forum to utilise their vast professional expertise in improving and enhancing service delivery and standards in the country.    

Further to its primary role, The Association also facilitates the on-going and continual professional development of our Dental Practitioners by establishing and fostering partnerships with other stakeholders both locally and internationally.  

Inclusive networking through private and public partnerships has greatly enhanced the Association’s capabilities over the years since its formation.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture I deem it proper as it would be remiss of me if I do not also acknowledge and pay tribute to the founders and pioneer members of the Dental Association whose Vision and Foresight saw the need to establish and register an Association to be the Forum and Voice of The Dental profession in Fiji – to ensure that our People have access to quality Oral Health and Care through continuing professional development and peer support of its members.

Since its inception, The Association has a present membership of about 60 Dental Practitioners.  It had undergone many changes and has evolved to become an important partner in the global communities’ pursuit of Universal Health Coverage.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the Hub of the Pacific, it is also commendable to note that the Association does not only cater to the needs of our People, but also assist in the development of the Dental Care and Oral Hygiene of our Pacific neighbours.  

In this regard, The Association continuously invites and interacts with Dental Practitioners from our neighbouring Pacific Island Countries like Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Niue, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and a few Micronesian Island Territories.

Professional Interaction with our regional neighbours and colleagues enables them to participate in our Oral/Hygienic Training and Development Programmes thus strengthening our bilateral relations as Pacific Peoples.

The Fiji Dental Association also collaborated with Dental Associations and Volunteer Groups in both Australia and New Zealand with the Fiji National University Dental School, in expanding post-graduate training of our local and regional Dental Practitioners – This networking promotes on-going mentorship whilst keeping our Practitioners connected, motivated and current with the latest developments and the ever-changing procedures and technologies.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Fiji Dental Association is also a member of the august body of the International Dental Federation (FDI). 

This is a most commendable achievement for Fiji as it enables our Dental Fraternity to be included in a recognised global Forum in which our views and opinions could be presented to and discussed.   

Ladies and Gentlemen, the COVID-19 Pandemic has inevitably compelled humanity to change the way we will have to interact and perhaps survive as a Global Community and one of the many harsh realities and changes are increased levels of awareness of Healthy lifestyles and other related social issues. 

In view of this, and as to be expected, the Global Medical/Health Authorities of all Nations have had to create a, “New Norm” in Dental Care and Dentistry in general and Fiji is no exception in the manner in which this important facet of Health and Medical Services will have to function.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is so heartening to see that The Fiji Dental Association has kept up with global trends in recent years through the continuing professional development of its Members via On Line Learning, like Webinars and Zoom and I believe the Conference/Discussions that were held here today is a testament to the upskilling and improvements required for the “New Norm” of Oral Health and Service Delivery/Procedures and Systems needed to be implemented here in Fiji and the region.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, Congratulations once again to the Fiji Dental Association in your Golden 50th Anniversary and may I wish The Association and our Dental Practitioners well and every success in your future endeavours.

Have an Enjoyable Evening, Stay Safe and may Almighty God bless you all and our Beloved Nation.  

Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, Sukria, Fai’eksia and Thank you All.