The unofficial motto of Lieutenant Danica Zhan and Able Seaman Caitlin Taylor’s department is ‘fit to bite, fit to fight’.
CAPTION: Able Seaman Dental Assistant Caitlin Taylor, left, and Dental Officer Lieutenant Danica Zhan are embarked on HMAS Canberra to care for the dental health of the task group during Indo-Pacific Endeavour. Story by Lieutenant Alicia Morris, Royal Canadian Navy. Photo by Leading Seaman Nadav Harel.
The two are the deployed dental team for Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 (IPE21), tending to patients from all task group ships at their dental clinic on board HMAS Canberra.
Able Seaman Taylor joined the Army Transport Corps four years ago as a driver and then transferred to the Navy as a dental assistant.
Lieutenant Zhan worked on her undergraduate degree as a civilian for three years before putting on a uniform for the remainder of her dental studies.
Together they took a flight from Perth to Darwin in late August to join Canberra to sail in support of IPE21.
Both are proud to serve at sea and love the opportunity to interact with their patients while underway.
Able Seaman Taylor said the decision to join the Australian Defence Force was motivated in part by her family history, beginning her ADF career in the Gap Year Program.
“I joined the Army as a driver, partly to honour my great-great aunt, who was a driver in World War II, but I also love to be challenged, learn new skills, and constantly be thinking,” Able Seaman Taylor said.
“I love travelling, and I wanted to see more of the world while serving in the ADF. I was in the Navy for only six months when the opportunity to sail for IPE21 came up.”
Dental officer Lieutenant Zhan was born in New Zealand; her parents are from Shanghai and moved the family to Australia when she was five.
“My parents are very grateful for the life they made in Sydney, and very supportive of my career in the Navy,” Lieutenant Zhan said.
“When I told them I wanted to join the ADF, they felt like they had, in a way, done their part for Australia and I felt like it was a way to be a part of something greater.”
The two said they enjoyed the balance that living and working among their shipmates provided, and hoped the less clinical environment made it easier for people to see them during office hours.
Back at home, both enjoy sports and fitness.
Able Seaman Taylor grew up with a passion for horses, as well as enjoying target shooting, and is looking forward to getting back on a surfboard when her professional life allows.
Lieutenant Zhan regularly attends F45, a circuit-based training program that packs a high-intensity workout into 45 minutes, and enjoys swimming.
CAPTION: Dental Officer Lieutenant Danica Zhan and Able Seaman Dental Assistant Caitlin Taylor are embarked on HMAS Canberra to care for the dental health of the Task Group during IPE 2021. Photo by Leading Seaman Nadav Harel.