Medical and dental students from the University of Otago took extra special care of some well-loved Dunedinites in May.

Young children from across the city brought their favourite stuffed animals to the ninth annual Teddy Bear Hospital where the teddies’ health concerns were tended to by volunteer students from the Otago University Medical Students’ Association and the School of Dentistry.

Organiser and third-year medical student Elise Forman says the students are there to create a positive experience and memories for the children in a healthcare setting with the doctors and dentists.

Teddies dressed in MAS tshirts“Basically, when you’re sick and you’re little, it can be very overwhelming, anxious and scary coming in to see and getting all the tests done and seeing all the doctors.”

MAS got behind the initiative this year, supplying extra teddies for any children who forgot to bring theirs. During the clinic bears got dental check-ups, X-rays, physical check-ups and casts where needed.

Organiser and fifth-year dental student Sandra Mathew, who dressed as the Tooth Fairy for the occasion, says the volunteer students also get something out of it.

“It does help us understand how to build rapport with kids, because it is a whole new training in itself. You have to know how to be comfortable because children pick up on energies really quickly, and if you’re nervous, then they’re probably going to anticipate that as well.”