Misbah Muzaffer, a fourth-year student at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Dentistry, recently established Dental Professionals for Human Rights to help educate and empower fellow students.
“We can effect change on a global level,” Muzaffer said. “In our curriculum, we learn a lot about the struggles within our state, which is important, but sometimes we can forget about other places that can use our help too.”
The Bluefield native saw the work of the Physicians for Human Rights group at the WVU School of Medicine and wanted to mirror the effort at the School of Dentistry.
“After talking to faculty, we decided it would be good to start a similar program for dentistry. Rather than Dentists for Human Rights, I wanted to include hygienists, assistants, and others in dental professions,” Muzaffer said.
While geared toward the School of Dentistry, the group is open to everyone with an interest in human rights. For Muzaffer, whose parents are Pakistani, her interest began when she was just a child.
“From a young age, we would go back to Pakistan, and seeing the sheer amount of poverty, just thinking about it brings me to tears. I feel like a lot of times, people say, ‘We need to focus on ourselves.’ Yes, we do, but we’re all in this together. We’re all humans,” she said.
“If we’ve been privileged with something, it’s obligatory for us to give back to the community. Seeing poverty and corruption from a young age really drove me to want to learn as much as I could to gain the skills and knowledge to be useful to other people,” she said.
Muzaffer always has had an interest in helping others. As an undergraduate, she saw the impact of mission trips through her work with the Rotary Club. She learned that physicians often are dispatched to international refugee camps but dentists are not, despite the need.
This helped steer her decision to enroll in dental school, WVU said, and to one day hopefully help nonprofit organizations that aid refugee camps.
Although COVID-19 has limited in-person events for the new group, Muzaffer is still encouraging participation online. For more information, find WVU Dental Professionals for Human Rights on Facebook or email Muzaffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.