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Community Connection - April 2009

Project Dental AwarenessWith spring in the air, many school districts are taking their students out for field trips. One possible destination is HSC-Baylor College of Dentistry, thanks to a program called Project Dental Awareness.

Created for local school-age children, Project Dental Awareness is designed to increase students’ understanding of oral health and possible dental careers. From August through April, HSC-BCD dental students help the program in one of two ways: visiting pre-kindergarten to sixth graders on-site at their schools, or meeting middle and high schoolers when they come to the college for field trips.

On March 17, seventh- and eighth-graders from DISD’s Longfellow Middle School visited the college, and D3 students Monica Yavrom and Stephen Dao spent their day with them.

“It was awesome,” Dao says of the experience. “The students were very intrigued and excited.”

During the morning, the dental students gave a presentation about oral hygiene and also talked about how they personally became interested in dental careers.

“We wanted to keep it very low-key, very informal,” Yavrom says. “It’s an impressionable age they’re at. It’s a good target audience because they’re at an age when they can make decisions about what they want to do.”

The students also shared a question-and-answer period about dental careers. To no surprise, a student asked how much money dentists make, but the students also asked many other questions and seemed very interested, Dao says.

Project Dental Awareness Lab“You could tell that a lot of them hadn’t thought about dentistry as a career,” he adds.

The group then toured the school and its clinics and had lunch with the dental students. The day concluded in Lab 30, where the students got to pour pediatric molds.

Both Dao and Yavrom say they’d consider helping with Project Dental Awareness again next year. Their participation this year was to fulfill their community service requirements. Leeanna Bartlett, assistant professor and director of social services, coordinates the third-year students who help with the program.

Project Dental Awareness is one of HSC-BCD’s Bridge to Dentistry programs, coordinated by the Office of Student Development. These programs were created to reach students in underserved areas, provide them early education and increase their awareness and entry into dental careers. The program’s ultimate goal is to develop new dentists who could return to their communities, open dental practices, care for patients and help remedy the underserved areas where they grew up.