More than 3,000 people in four different countries, including 2,049 children and 1,076 adults, received free dental care during the 2018-2019 school year thanks to the NYU Dentistry/Henry ScheinCares Global Student Outreach Program. This year also marks the collaboration’s tenth anniversary.
The program targets populations facing barriers to oral health including a lack of total dental providers, economic hardship, and inadequate health insurance coverage. Traveling in interdisciplinary teams of general dentists and dental specialists, New York University College of Dentistry students receive hands-on clinical instruction and are exposed to public health issues under the guidance of faculty, alumni, local partners, and community leaders.
“The NYU Dentistry/Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach Program is designed with two goals in mind: delivering and sustaining oral health improvements in host communities and creating exceptional service-learning experiences for our students,” said Stuart Hirsch, DDS, vice dean for international initiatives and continuing dental education at NYU Dentistry.
“Through our outreach, we are fulfilling a critical health need, conducting meaningful public health research, and transforming the way future oral healthcare providers view their roles in society,” Hirsch said.
Henry Schein donates the oral health supplies and materials for each outreach program. The teams use these products to provide routine and urgent dental services, including screenings and preventive and restorative treatment for children and adults at no cost to the patient.
“We are pleased to support NYU Dentistry in its efforts to provide care to remote and underserved populations around the world, offer crucial learning opportunities for its students, and build the capacity of local community partners to provide care,” said Stanley Bergman, Henry Schein chairman and CEO.
“NYU Dentistry was Henry Schein’s founding partner for the Global Student Outreach Program 10 years ago, and the positive impact our teams have made together speaks to what is possible through public-private partnerships. We thank NYU Dentistry for its work this academic year and look forward to what we are able to accomplish together in the years ahead,” said Bergman.
This year, the program took teams to Clinton County and Duchess County in New York and to Machias, Maine, as well as to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Cuenca in Ecuador, and Surkhet and Pokhara in Nepal.
Last fall, NYU Dentistry hosted its first week-long clinic in Clinton County in northeast New York on the border of Canada. United Healthcare recognized that many of its members there had not seen a dentist in the previous year, so it partnered with NYU Dentistry to fund the free clinic in Plattsburgh. An NYU Dentistry team will return this fall.
This year also marked the first mission to provide care in Cuenca and Pokhara. NYU Dentistry had previously conducted outreach programs in Ecuador and Nepal but returned to new cities based on local needs and partnerships.
For the second year, the program held a program in Surkhet, a remote village in western Nepal near the border with India. Surkhet is the home of the Kopila Valley School and Children’s Home, founded in 2015 by CNN Hero of the Year Maggie Doyne.
Additionally, the program works to implement sustainable oral health prevention, including identifying and training local members of the community who can continue efforts on an ongoing basis.
In Cambodia, NYU Dentistry partners with the University of Puthisastra’s Faculty of Dentistry, which already is successfully implementing oral health education, screening, and preventive care such as sealants and silver diamine fluoride. During the November 2018 outreach, NYU Dentistry helped with urgent needs such as restorations, extractions, and root canals.
NYU Dentistry also has started to transition out of providing clinical care in Kathmandu, Nepal, empowering local partners to take ownership of the program through classroom toothbrushing and referring children to a local dental college as a permanent dental home.
“We have been coming to Kathmandu since 2013 and have measured a marked improvement in the children’s oral health,” said Hirsch. “It is time for the sustainability to be entirely in the community’s control in the coming years.”
Each year, nearly 200 NYU dental, dental hygiene, and postgraduate students participate in outreach programs. These intensive, community-based clinical experiences give students hands-on training and one-on-one clinical instruction from supervising faculty.
Along with learning the skills to maintain healthy smiles, students also describe having transformative experiences, rethinking their roles as future healthcare providers and gaining a deeper understanding of barriers to healthcare in different settings.
“I have had the opportunity of entering communities and learning about the daily challenges others face that I simply take for granted,” said Nicole Haydt, who traveled to Cambodia and Nepal with the program and graduated from NYU Dentistry in May.
“Lack of nutritious foods, access to a dental clinic, fluoridated water, and ability to afford toothpaste are just some of the obstacles people endure, keeping them from better oral health and a full smile,” said Haydt.
“Serving globally has allowed me to visualize a greater purpose for how I want to live my life and work with a team to provide care for those most in need,” said Haydt.
“The cultures and communities in which we served are varied and complex, as are the reasons why those who need dental care the most aren’t receiving it,” said Catherine Lee, who participated in trips to Ecuador and Maine and also graduated in May.
“My dental global public health training at NYU has profoundly impacted how I think about my career in dentistry and has strengthened my sense of responsibility not only locally, but also to the global community,” said Lee.
For the 2019-2020 school year, NYU Dentistry will send teams to Clinton County, Pokhara, Surkhet, Cuenca, and Machias again. Other sites under consideration include Hudson, Windham, and Malone, New York, and Cape Town, South Africa.