Hi Tan! Can you please tell us a little bit about your PhD topic?

My research uses health economics theory to understand what interventions provide the best value for investment to prevent oral diseases. We will focus on two of the most prevalent oral diseases: dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontitis (severe gum disease). Not only will we rank these interventions relative to their cost-effectiveness but we will also consider other implementation considerations that cannot be captured from the technical analysis of economic evaluation such as health equity.

How is your research going to make health and wellbeing easier for everyone to achieve?

The outcomes of this research will support the development of evidence informed oral health policy to improve population oral health. Australia has one of the most equitable healthcare systems internationally yet has not established a framework for national leadership for oral health. I hope my research will make it easier for policy-decision makers to implement effective and cost-effective intervention to promote oral health as integral to health and wellbeing.

What inspired you to undertake this research?

As an oral health therapist, I have a natural interest in the dentistry and oral health field. However, I was fortunate to receive specialised health economics training through the Master of Public Health program at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Under the leadership of Hon. Professor Hanny Calache, I was able to expand my research in this field within the Oral Health Research Stream at Deakin Health Economics. My PhD research integrated my interests in public health, oral health, health economics, and health equity.

If you could recommend one book for everyone at IHT to read, what would that be?

Not everyone likes numbers and mathematics, although economic principles occur throughout our daily living. There are two books that continue to influence my thinking and perspectives. ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein and ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. Both books explore how powerful framing and bias affects human behaviour.

What is your favourite podcast? (Apart from the IHT podcast, of course!)

My go to podcasts is those published by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency: Taking care. They are relatable conversations about public safety in the healthcare environment, with a focus on registered health practitioners. It keeps me grounded as a health professional, and the critical role we play to promote patient-centred, high quality, safe and equitable healthcare.

You’ve got a Saturday afternoon completely to yourself, what would we find you doing?

For me, these times are often rare with trying to balance work and family commitments. Remarkably, I really enjoy academic writing. For leisure, I will probably be spending time fishing or playing futsal with friends.

And finally, what is the best lesson you have learned so far during your PhD completion?

PhD candidature is an excellent time to experiment with ideas and theory. I have learnt, wherever possible and practical, doing it part-time. It creates the space and freedom to be truly understand who you want to be as an independent ‘researcher’. And it also helps to participate in professional societies to stimulate and expand your knowledge and perfect for networking.