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Well-known Cambridge dental therapist dies

Alison Wallis, well-known dental therapist, passed away 29 December 2012. Her funeral was held on 5 January 2013 with a large attendance of her colleagues, friends and relations.

Alison Wallis succumbed to breast cancer after a long battle, bravely fought. Alison has been a local identity as long-standing dental therapist residing and working in Cambridge for 28 years.

Dental therapy has been a massive part of Alison’s life.  Alison has been involved in all aspects of providing dental care for children for over 40 years and she loved her career. It all started as a young 17-year-old in 1972 when Alison was accepted for dental nurse training in Christchurch.

This in itself was quite an honour, as entry was highly competitive.  There existed only a handful of career choices for young women in the early seventies, and dental nursing and Alison were perfectly suited.  Selection appeared to be based on intelligence, beauty and capacity to endure a military style training – Alison passed all three criteria.

Alison applied herself and graduated with a Certificate in Dental Nursing.  She proceeded to a placement in a dental clinic selected at the whim of the Department of Health. That placement for Alison was Dunedin, where she worked for five years.

Then a lucky break occurred for Waikato District Health Board, with Alison, her husband George and two small children, Scott and Glenn, shifting to Cambridge and Alison wanting to resume her career. Alison secured a position with Health Waikato on 1 October 1984 as a dental therapist in Cambridge, a position she held and loved for just about half her life.

The job changed greatly over the last 28 years and Alison has had much in the way of positively influencing that change.

Alison was a leader in her profession: she was a capable president for the NZ Dental Therapists Association and was a president of the Dental Nurses Institute. In these roles she held national influence.

Her lovely dental work will live on the mouths of Cambridge youngsters and she’s also been the nice dental nurse for many of their parents.  The service has received compliments about the care Alison has provided and these demonstrate how a community has valued her service.

Many of us in the service admired that Alison trained as a peer appraiser and embarked on checking other dental therapists work. This was a scary and risky thing to do – nobody had done it before, yet Alison led a professional group to reflect on clinical practice. Its a courageous, special, rare person that can carry this off amongst professional women, and this person was Alison!

Alison was a product of her genes and her environment.  Obviously both were highly positive, showed initiative, drive and a love for life.

Her Cambridge colleagues of the two Sarahs, Leanne, Vicki and Kay will miss her greatly. Dental therapists from across the region and the country share our feeling of loss. She is the only known dental therapist who has a clinic named in her honour, the old dental clinic at Cambridge Primary school being the Alison Wallis Building, a reflection of enduring value she brought to the school community.

Alison’s life has been about giving, about quality, about positivity.  So much has been achieved in a mere 28 years.  We’ve appreciated and enjoyed every moment we’ve had and pledge to continue with Alison’s good work in leadership, reflective practice, courageousness in the face of adversity, and excellence in clinical care.

The  Big Day In planned for January 25 2013, will provide an opportunity for colleagues to support the charity Alison was passionate about, the Breast  Cancer Foundation of NZ.


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Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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