Among honorees at the 2016 Whitley Awards Ceremony, hosted April 27 at The Royal Geographical Society in London: a dental surgeon who said she never envisioned a successful career in conservation.

But, according to a report in, Dr. Hotlin Ompusunggu’s  work in Indonesia has clearly paid off.

In the April ceremony hosted by Kate Humble Dr. Ompusunggu earned  Whitley Gold Award that was donated by The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature and presented in front of over 550 guests, including Sir David Attenborough.

As to how she combined dentistry and reforestation in Borneo, Dr. Ompusunggu — who is from a big city on Sumatra –explained to The Guardian that she wasn’t originally interested in conservation.

“I took it for granted that we had beautiful forests with orangutans. I was even sceptical about conservation, I wondered why we spend so much money saving orangutans. But I learned that the orangutan is the farmer of the forest, and the forest provides water for people, so it all comes back to people and conservation for human well being.”

How has she helped? By providing people with health care discounts if their villages stop illegal logging.

“The idea is to save the lives of these people and also save the forest. A dentist is not a typical background, but I’m passionate about community development and I’m interested in health in the bigger picture. I have learned that to be a healthy human being, you also need healthy nature, and that’s how I came to find myself here,” she said.

Learn how her plan helped break the cycle of poverty and illegal logging and why there are plans to replicate her model across south-east Asia:


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Winner of the Whitley Gold Award donated by The Friends and Scottish Friends of the Whitley Fund for Nature, Hotlin Ompusunggu, right, with host Anne, Princess Royal. (Photo Courtesy )


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Kristie Ceruti

Kristie Grier Ceruti, Senior Communications Specialist for Benco Dental, has been Molar-Musing for since its launch in 2013. Favorite dental moment: Interviewing Industry Icon, the late Dr. Esther Wilkins, at her Boston home during a record-breaking snowfall of 2015. As the Digital Editor of Incisal Edge magazine, Kristie received a FOLIO: Eddie Award for journalism based on an architectural and interior design tour of the country’s most impressive dental practices.

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