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USciences Pre-Dental Undergraduates Form Students for Universal Oral Health (SUOH)

By Zachary Durham

Published on October 5, 2020

Members of SUOHIn March, Rebekah Yi BMS’22 had just had a root canal, only to be told by her dentist that she had to schedule three additional fillings. She had never prioritized her visits to the dentist, but it had only been a year since her last appointment, so she didn’t expect her oral health to decline so rapidly.

Through the pain, she could only think of how people without access to dental insurance were maintaining their oral health.

“My emotions were heavy. I was angry at the health care system, upset for people who can’t afford treatment nor have access to any type of prevention, and frustrated at how I couldn’t help everyone who is underserved,” said Yi.

After a month of researching organizations that supported those in need with oral health treatment and tools for prevention, she came up short.

Frustrated, Yi reached out to her academic advisors at USciences, who recommended that she reach out to her pre-dental peers: Christian Fan BI’21, Kunal Kadakia BI’21, Hasan Ahktar BI’21, and Keshav Patel MedHum’22.

The quintet then recruited pre-medical student Samantha Young BMS’23, as well as a business major from Montclair State, Chris Patel, to round out the team. After meeting multiple times and realizing a common goal shared by all of them, they decided on a plan and direction for an organization they wanted to create.

That was the start of Students for Universal Oral Health (SUOH).

"SUOH has allowed me to better realize why I a pursuing a career in dentistry..."

-- Keshav Patel MedHum'22

“I think it has definitely helped by having a great support group of fellow pre-dental students that I not only work alongside for SUOH, but in many ways are mentors for me through the whole process,” said K. Patel, the Director of Finance of SUOH. “SUOH has allowed me to better realize why I am pursuing a career in dentistry by putting the patient above all else.”

SUOH strives to improve oral care in underserved communities of Philadelphia through methods of education, prevention and treatment.

“As the only board member who is not pre-dental, being on this team has helped me realize how important dental care is as a whole,” said Young, the Director of Outreach & Engagement of SUOH. “As I continue to work in the medical field, I will be sure to keep in consideration the immense impact oral health has on a patient.”

Short-term, SUOH is primarily focused on hosting events throughout Philadelphia that inform the public on the importance of oral health. It also plans on distributing almost 300 dental kits to homeless shelters and underserved areas.

In the long run, the organization hopes to provide necessary procedures within underserved populations by raising and allocating funds towards patients who need extensive treatment, in addition to incorporating itself as an official nonprofit and spreading its mission nationwide.

”SUOH reminds all of us what dentistry is about: giving a helping hand to those in need,” said Akhtar, the Director of Programming of SUOH. “SUOH has motivated me to want to continue volunteering to treat the underserved as a dentist in the future. Being involved in an organization like this so early in my dental journey will remind me of the bigger picture when working to become a dentist.”

The most important goal is to make an impact in the surrounding community.

“As a dental student in Philadelphia, I have not only seen the need for oral care but have also learned about the importance of oral health,” said Kadakia, the Vice President of SUOH. “SUOH gives me an outlet to help make an impact regarding this situation and find ways, as a student, to improve the status of oral health within Philadelphia.”

As future dental professionals, SUOH believes that it has to have an impact on the future of oral health in America.

"Our mission is to help underprivileged individuals with their oral health..."

-- Christian Fan BI'21

"SUOH serves as a reminder as to why I got into dentistry in the first place,” said Fan, the Director of Communications of SUOH. “Because our mission is to help underprivileged individuals with their oral health, I am reminded of the population I am dedicating to serve one day.” 

“This organization has taught me beyond the art of dentistry,” added Yi, the President of SUOH. “It has taught me to understand people’s hearts and support a cause that will bring us one step closer to equality in the healthcare system. Dentistry isn’t simply about treating physical pain, but sympathizing with patients and teaching them how to properly care while reminding them that they have supporters like SUOH.”

Categories: News, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Pre-medical Education, Students, Community Service,