Caroline McCarthy (Wells)

Caroline works as a dentist in a specialist training post with the aim of becoming a consultant in oral medicine at Liverpool Dental Hospital.

As a new sixth-former Caroline McCarthy (or Wells as she was back then) didn’t really know what she wanted to do when she left school. She had done well in her GCSEs and had the pick of subjects and careers. She had chosen Maths, Biology and French with Music AS as the subjects she enjoyed. However, at the beginning of Year 12 she began to look into potential careers and research university prospectuses. One career lodged itself in her mind as something that could potentially be for her: Dentistry. She loved the sciences but also liked the creative element of the job, in moulding fillings and ensuring that the results of her work were aesthetically pleasing. Caroline immediately took the brave move of swapping French for the required subject of Chemistry, making up several weeks of work in the process: but she never looked back.

Caroline passed with flying colours and went on to study at Sheffield University on a five-year dentistry course which she loved because she was so closely connected to patients. She did her first filling at 19. She now works in a Specialist Training post with the aim of becoming a consultant in Oral Medicine at Liverpool Dental Hospital. And she has made several more big decisions to enable this to happen.

She says: “Dentistry is a great career and it is much more diverse than people assume. There is much more to it than just fillings. It is academically challenging but you must be good with your hands too; it’s a bit of an eye-opener to pick up a drill for the first time and realise you are not very good at it! Everyone will find different aspects of the job a challenge.”

Caroline’s career so far, even at 28, has spanned a variety of the roles involved within the field of dentistry and seen her take a less conventional path in pursuit of her dream job, career and life. Since she graduated she has worked in a number of junior doctor posts; she spent a year in general practice but decided that she wanted to move into the hospital sector. She moved to Leeds to take up a role training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, fixing facial injuries. She relished the challenge of this role but was quick to realise that long shifts and working nights were not something she would want to do forever. She then moved into Oral Pathology (looking at specimens under the microscope to diagnose diseases) but missed the connection and communication with patients.

It was then that she found her current role at Liverpool which seems to satisfy her need for challenge and, with a nine-month-old baby, her desire for some stability to her working hours. The role is academic as she is doing a PhD in Head and Neck Cancer research and she will ultimately become a consultant in Oral Medicine.

Caroline’s career path is not typical of dental graduates but it does show the range of things you can do with a dental degree. And her advice to the girls currently in Year 12?

“Girls are privileged to come to this school as there is so much here in the way of expertise and resources to help them. The girls really need to make use of it while they are here. It is easy to get on a path and then just stay there but they need to make time for thinking about what they really want to do with their life.”