The Dental Pride Alliance at the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry focuses on providing an inclusive support system where dental students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community can connect, discuss concerns, and engage in an educational environment that fosters a safe learning experience.
The organization was founded in 2019 when students recognized a need for education and training in the current curriculum to help better work with and meet the treatment needs of LGBTQ+ patients. It is currently talking with the faculty about incorporating LGBTQ+ themes into the curriculum.
“By incorporating LGBTQ+ content into our courses, it will help to normalize these discussions,” said Lucia Santos, co-president of the organization. “It will also give students and faculty the knowledge to help ensure patients feel welcome in our clinics, regardless of their gender or sexuality.”
“One of our goals is to help all students, graduates, and alumni provide an inclusive environment so patients can access the care they need without barriers or judgement,” said co-president Evan Benak.
“We often find there is a lack of awareness and education on how to be better allies for the LGBTQ+ community. We want to give people the tools they need to take care of themselves, their queer and transgender patients, and help advocate for the community,” Benak said.
Education is one of the three pillars that Benak and Santos are focused on, along with advocacy and community. It has hosted speakers who have discussed working with queer and transgender patients, updating patient intake forms, and increasing awareness of different identities and pronouns.
Also, the organization has hosted joint in-person events with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and the Faculty of Law, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as virtual events. While the Toronto Pride Parade has been cancelled due to COVID-19, the Dental Pride Alliance aims to participate in 2022.
“We want people to know the Alliance exists,” said Benak. “It helps to build and find our community and show that the Faculty of Dentistry is a safe and welcoming space.”
All Alliance events are public, and staff, faculty, students, and alumni are encouraged to attend and build their knowledge to help provide better patient care. It said that feedback from past attendees has been incredibly positive.
“Students in particular have been so grateful for their experience with us,” said Santos. “By offering training, education, and open conversations, we are creating space for allies and an environment for continued learning. This will ultimately help make dental offices safe, inclusive, and respectful for a better patient experience.”