Oral health at the margins: welcome Professor Marc Tennant to RealScientists


Following a week of tremendous tweeting about diversity and inequity (and great big hairy spiders) by Dr Maggie Hardy of the IMB in Brisbane, we cross the breadth of Australia to meet another researcher with a strong focus on solving issues of inequality and inequity, Winthrop Professor Marc Tennant of the University of Western Australia. Marc completed his PhD in Anatomy in the early 1990’s in cell biology, but for the last 20 years his research has focused on dental public health and social equity. Marc is the Director and Founder of the WHO-recognised International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity (formally the Centre for Rural and Remote Oral Health) at the University of Western Australia. The mission of the IRCOHE is to understand the issues associated with marginalised people and in particular rural, remote and Indigenous oral health in Australia.

Marc’s efforts have made a significant impact on oral health in Australia and in particular groups who are disadvantaged. In 2009 Marc was recognised by the health consumers’ council of Western Australia for services to the community and in 2010 with a meritorious service award from the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (RACDS) for services to dental education and Aboriginal people. Marc also was an inaugural dental fellow of the Australasian College of Health Service Executives in 2010, and in 2014 became just the second Western Australian to be made a Fellow of the RACDS.

He has had crucial roles in the establishment of several new dental schools in Australia in the recent past, including at Griffith University and James Cook University in Queensland, LaTrobe University in Victoria, and Charles Sturt University in New South Wales. His dental teaching material on YouTube has had over 250,000 viewers from 130 countries and he has one of Australia’s largest twitter followings in dentistry where he talks about dental public health and marginalisation (@MarcTennant). He has more than 200 peer–review publications to his name and over $US17 million in research and development funding. He is the first RealScientists curator to have a café named after him, at the UWA dental school, in honour of his services to dental education and the community. And this week, he joins the ranks of @RealScientists curators!


Why and how did you end up in science?

Family history, with a bunch of dyslexia and a inquisitiveness beyond what is normal!

Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

Accidental. A passion and long family history in justice and human spirit lead me from my primary trained skills (Graduate Studies in Biology) to social justice.

Tell us about your work, and why it’s important.

My work is predominantly in public health and system reform to provide more equitable oral health, nationally and internationally. Dental pain and suffering remains one of the most substantive life events for many many people across the globe. We have ways to make a difference and we should be finding ways to bring those to more people to stop human suffering.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations? Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

Ancient Phoenician writing, and large scale mathematical modelling. (Yes not a common hobby!)

How would you describe your ideal day off?

Discussing solving the grand problems of the world with my better half and meeting my grad students to feed their passions so they can solve the grand problems of the world.


Thanks Marc, and welcome to RealScientists!


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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