The stars of St Pat’s – Dr John Whyte

Dr John Whyte has been volunteering at St Patrick’s Community Support Centre since its oral health clinic opened in 2016.


Dr John Whyte has been volunteering at St Patrick’s Community Support Centre since its oral health clinic opened in 2016.

“Dr Russell Gordon heard that I had sold my practice and was working part-time and asked if I would be happy to do a little bit of volunteer work,” John recalls. “I said to let me know when the clinic was ready and that I was happy to do a session a month. I have been volunteering ever since.”

For John, volunteering has been a way to give back. “I have been a dentist for 45 years and I have got a lot of professional satisfaction and financial renumeration from being a dentist, and I wanted to put a little bit back into the community,” he says. “When I was working full–time at my practice there is no way I had the time to do that so when I was working part–time, I finally had time up my sleeve to volunteer, so it suited me perfectly.”

John says most of the treatment he does at St Pat’s includes simple fillings and extractions – and the patients are very appreciative.

He adds it is satisfying to be able to get these patients, who are usually massively disadvantaged, out of pain.  

“Often they come in with huge decay and abscess issues and they put off seeking treatment because they are scared of going to the dentist,” he says.

“I had one guy yesterday with a lower wisdom tooth that was abscessed. He was trying to take Nurofen, and that was never going to fix the problem.”

As someone who has been with St Pat’s Oral Health Clinic from the start, John says although there were some teething problems early on, St Pat’s is an enjoyable place to volunteer, especially since the Australian Dental Health Foundation was awarded the Fremantle Foundation 2020 Impact100 grant last year – with $100,000 going towards the Oral Health Clinics.

For dentists considering volunteering at St Pat’s, John says to go with an open mind, expect to be seeing the disadvantaged people of Perth, and enjoy the journey.

St Pat’s is not the only organisation John has given his time to. Along with his colleague and friend, Dr John Moran, he has taken part in several trips to volunteer in East Timor with the Timor-Leste Dental Program.

At 67, John will be retiring at the end of June, and encourages dentists approaching retirement to volunteer while they can.

“For dentists like myself, who are nearing the end of their career – if you have a spare five hours a month, go there because you will get plenty out of helping people,” he says.

“Most dentists of my vintage have got a lot of out of dentistry in a financial sense, so put a bit back in for the people who cannot afford to go to a general dentist in normal circumstances.”

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