Volunteers from UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry provided screenings, oral hygiene instruction, fluoride varnish, and helpful oral health information to over 100 children across two back-to-school events in August.
Community outreach participation was through events held by the CHRISTUS Foundation for HealthCare on Aug. 6 and the Morales Memorial Foundation on Aug. 13. In addition to seeing children, parents and guardians in attendance were provided guidance on how to assist with improving oral health to improve overall health for their children by emphasizing oral health education. Dental resources were also provided to help find a dental home.
Volunteers for the CHRISTUS Foundation for HealthCare event were fourth-year dental students Amber Hua and Elizabeth Pohlman; and second-year dental hygiene students Lauren Frazee, Linh Hawkins, Laura Huynh, Elissa Nguyen, Tam Nguyen, and Sandra Perez. Faculty participants were Esther Kuyinu, DDS, MS; Margo Melchor, RDH, EdD, community outreach director; and Hsiu-Wan Meng, DDS, MS. Dental assistants were San Juanita Garcia-Sarabia, RDA; and Kimberly Avila, RDA.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to help,” said Pohlman. “I really enjoyed it.”
The School of Dentistry also took part in the Morales Memorial Foundation’s 25th Annual Back to School Giveaway in service to Houston’s Greater East End community.
Volunteers included fourth-year dental student Jayson Workman; second-year dental students Cari Guerra and Aemin Kim; and second-year dental hygiene students Casandra Castillo, Lily Dinh, Natalia Frausto, Ana Mendez, Nour Nimer, Graciela Mendez, and Samantha Paredes. Faculty participants were Elham Abbassi, DDS, D.ABDSM; Hannah Medrano, BSDH, RDH; and Melchor. Dental hygienists Angelica Eckhardt, RDH; and Angela Warren, RDH; and research assistant Kala Morales Ladrón de Guevara also took part in the event.
“I appreciated the opportunity to participate and give back to the community by helping to identify urgent needs prior to the children going back to school, provide dental resources and oral health instruction, and administer fluoride treatments,” Medrano said. “Being able to take it a step further and identify these needs and also aiming to bridge the gap between oral health disparities among children is something I’m so happy to be part of. Being able to provide information the parent or child needs to keep their smile healthy and keep them in school really made me feel like I was making an impact on improving the oral health of the public.”
Kala Morales noted the enjoyment for the opportunity to share awareness and education on oral health with families at the event.
“I firmly believe that being engaged with the surrounding community—and striving to make it a better place—is one of many forms of showing appreciation to others,” Kala Morales said. “This was my first dental volunteer experience with UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry, and I can't wait to keep giving back some of my time and be involved in future events.”
The School of Dentistry’s participation in the annual event was also noted by Texas State Rep. Christina Morales, president of the Morales Memorial Foundation.
“The Morales Foundation and I thank UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry for supporting our 25th Annual Back to School Giveaway by providing screenings and fluoride applications to students,” Representative Morales said. “Our underserved communities often face persistent and systemic barriers to accessing oral health. We know that health care is an essential component of comprehensive health care and are grateful to institutions like the School of Dentistry which understand the importance of providing access and education to our community.”