Hygiene Rotation Includes Prison, Cancer Care, and Other Challenging Environments

Dentistry Today


Fall 2019 marked the first semester that the hygiene program at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry included the Cross Cancer Institute and the Edmonton Remand Centre in their external rotation visits for the full semester, along with the long-term care facilities, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre Dental Clinic, and the satellite clinics up north.

The semester also marked the most treatments and assessments performed throughout the class, as 48 students had the opportunity to serve at the Cross or the Remand and broadened their experience palette for after graduation, the school reports.

“It really serves as an opportunity for students to see what you can do as a clinicians beyond the confines of the private practice model,” said Nadia Kobagi, assistant clinical professor with the program. “Interacting with inmates, cancer patients, and populations in need is a new experience for most of the students, and it teaches that vital empathy piece.”

The emotional impact on students was great, the school says, but it also opened a dialogue with the instructor on dealing with these emotions in a clinical setting. For example, student Maham Masoud spent an emotional day with the patients at the Cross.

“I expected it to be a sad experience, but in the end, it was uplifting. These people are warriors. They’re my heroes!” Masoud said.

Although the students weren’t allowed to treat the patients at the Cross Cancer Center since they were in the middle of their cancer treatments, they still provided assessments and offered advice on self-care, product options, and the importance of oral health as a whole.

Visiting the inmates at the Remand Centre, student Eve Koestner left feeling both frustrated and hopeful. Students were only allowed to conduct assessments since tools could be dangerous, but there were so few options open to the inmates that it was a challenge to offer advice that was appropriate for their resources. 

“All they had was a brush with a thumb grip and a brush head. Floss was only available to buy!” Koestner said. “Despite that, I feel like we brought some light to their lives and did some good. I really wish we had been able to offer treatment. Everyone we saw was more severely in need of treatment than the average patient off the street.” 

According to the school, the class offers students a bevy of unteachable skills such as patient-clinician connections, creative problem solving, and working in sub-optimal situations and offers care to those populations who wouldn’t otherwise receive it. 

“We look forward to helping more patients in the coming semester and beyond,” said Kobagi.

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