Shirley Bower (Harold)

1942 Collegian


During the school holidays I used to do a bit of general nursing for Dad, who was a dentist. So I thought I would do dentistry

In 1943 I enrolled in the Dental School of WA, which was affiliated with UWA. For a couple of years I was the only girl in the faculty. I graduated top of my year in March 1947 and began work in my father's private dental practice in central Murray Street, Perth.

My dad used to do dentistry for the police and I did it for the police cadets. It used to be a bit embarrassing when they'd come up to me in Hay Street and escort me along!

I married Ralph Bower in 1949 and remained working until my daughter, Jo, was born in 1951. In 1962, when my three girls were old enough for school and kindergarten, I returned to part-time dental practice at the Perth Dental Hospital.

When I joined the Perth Dental Hospital I treated paedodontics patients. Later I was in charge of the Atypical Patients' Clinic, that is, patients who were physically and mentally disabled and others who were too frightened of dentists to be treated in conventional ways.

The time that I spent with these 'atypical' patients was the most significant feature of my career. My goal was always to treat these patients in the dental chair using lots of patience and persuasion, although local analgesia helped and there were also times when a general anaesthetic was needed.

It was a step forward when nitrous oxide relative analgesia became available and I was the first dentist at the Perth Dental Hospital to be given accreditation for the use of this new form of pain relief.

It was often challenging, but I like a challenge.

On MLC: The school gave me a love of sport, as well as of literature and theatre – activities that I continue to enjoy. Above all, my schooling gave me the confidence and skills to join interest groups and clubs. The companionship and purpose that come from being a part of something beyond home and family continues to sustain me.