Meet the Valedictorian: Q&A with Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) Graduate Gabrielle Starr

Gabrielle Starr
Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours) Valedictorian 

What inspired you to study Dentistry at UQ?

One of my first jobs during high school was as a dental assistant in a family practice. I loved the fast-paced, people-focussed nature of dentistry, and the dentist I worked for encouraged me to pursue a career in healthcare. Growing up in country NSW where winter temperatures often fall below freezing, I was keen for a change of scenery, so I made the move up to sunny QLD and started my Arts/Science degree at UQ in 2013. Upon graduating my first degree, I could think of nowhere I’d rather pursue my dreams of studying dentistry than at UQ - and here we are!

What has been your most memorable moment at UQ?

I have been at UQ for over 10 years so it’s difficult to choose just one moment! Some of my proudest moments were representing the student body as UQ Union President and sitting on the UQ Senate. The most rewarding moments were running events for clubs and societies and enabling first year students to make their first UQ friends. Academically, I will never forget how I felt walking out of my first practical drilling exam - I felt for sure I had failed, and the elation upon finding out I had passed was profound. Perhaps the most significant moment was locking eyes with my now-fiancé across the dancefloor at a society pub crawl. Suffice to say, the moments I have experienced at UQ will be with me for the rest of my life.

How did you manage to balance your study, work and other extracurricular activities?

With difficulty! I’ve worked throughout my studies and have always been someone who keeps saying yes to opportunities, so it has definitely been difficult at times and a lot of sleep has been sacrificed in the process. I wouldn’t recommend this as a life strategy - particularly as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised the importance of consistently good sleep, exercise, and nutrition in making me a functional human who’s pleasant to be around.

What drove you to become such a high achiever?

I think going to a public school in a country town, my motivation to “get out” was really what ignited my desire to achieve academically. I find great personal satisfaction in knuckling down and learning difficult concepts, and once I get over the inevitable weeks of procrastination, I have really enjoyed the challenges and triumphs of studying and practising dentistry.

What are you most passionate about?

In terms of my career, I’m very passionate about providing more equitable healthcare access to regional communities. Australians living in regional and remote areas are under-served by even the most basic, preventative services in our healthcare system, like mental health or dental. This has always struck me as deeply unfair - you shouldn’t have to suffer from an easily treatable condition just because of where you live. I also strongly believe we need to improve the quality and accessibility of public education, and I’d be interested in combining these passions in a public health role someday.

What do you believe it takes to become valedictorian?

There’s not a recipe for becoming valedictorian - everyone has different strengths, so approach university life your own way rather than imitating anyone who has gone before you. I think the students who are nominated as valedictorians tend to be the ones who put time and effort into making the most of their time at university - as well as life in general. The foundation of this is obviously getting the best results you can in your studies, but also getting involved in a variety of co-curricular activities such as clubs, social sport, and student representation; you might also pursue something you’re passionate about which is completely outside the university.

What does being awarded Valedictorian mean to you?

I couldn’t be more honoured! Being awarded Valedictorian was something I wrote on a list of ‘long-shot’ aspirations at the start of my studies and it is surreal to have it come to fruition. I feel like I’ve experienced just about everything UQ has to offer, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect end to my academic career than having the opportunity to address my fellow graduates at our ceremony.

What advice would you give future UQ students?

Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes your way! There are so many amazing experiences available at UQ. Turn up to lectures/tutorials and learn from some of the most amazing minds; join clubs and societies to meet people, have fun, make the most of your time at university; apply for everything - scholarships, essay competitions, student-staff partnership projects, peer mentor roles, part-time jobs - you never know what you’ll learn and how it’ll change your life!

What’s next for you after graduation?

Next year I’m moving back to country NSW to work as a dentist in my hometown! Serendipitously, the family practice I worked at in high school had an opening and I’m incredibly excited to work alongside the dentist who initially inspired my dental journey. I’m very much looking forward to improving and developing my skills and providing high-quality dental care to a regional community.

Learn more about UQ's Bachelor of Dental Science (Honours).
Last updated:
11 December 2023