Not Just Another Day in the Park

UConn dental and medical students continue a series of free community health care clinics, offering health screenings and education both within and beyond Connecticut.

Outdoor group portrait of students and faculty, masked

From left: Julia Witt, Emma Wentworth, Tyler Guido, Edward Amelemah, Anthony Perez-Pino, and Natalia Hernandez are among the UConn dental students who helped run a free community health care clinic at Hartford's Keney Park June 2021. Also pictured, at far right, is Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students. (Photo provided by Sarita Arteaga)

Students from the UConn School of Dental Medicine and the UConn School of Medicine recently participated in a free community health care clinic held in Keney Park in Hartford. The pilot program, sponsored by the Urban Ecology and Wellness Center, was the first of several free clinics planned. It featured providers from a variety of health care disciplines, offering health screenings and education.

patient care at outdoor community clinic
UConn dental students Edward Amelemah (left) and Tyler Guido work with a patient at a community health care clinic at Keney Park in Hartford. (Photo by Sarita Arteaga)

UConn dental students provided an oral health screening for each patient, and with consent from the patient or patient’s guardian, applied fluoride varnish. Additionally, each patient received a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, as well as information on proper brushing and flossing techniques.

UConn medical students conducted blood pressure and blood glucose screenings, and served as nutrition/COVID-19 counseling teams. Volunteers rotated through stations, allowing them to practice different skills. Students from the UConn Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing also participated.

Many of the patients, said rising second-year dental student Julia Witt, were children. She and her fellow students enjoyed the experience, she added, and said another highlight was the opportunity to meet peers from different professional health care programs in the region.

patient care at outdoor community clinic
UConn dental students Julia Witt (left) and Natalia Hernandez see a patient at a community health care clinic at Hartford’s Keney Park. Also pictured is dental student Tyler Guido. (Photo by Sarita Arteaga)

“This wasn’t my first service program, but at Keney Park we saw a lot of children in comparison to adults,” Witt observed. “It was a great event, and it opened my eyes to the profound impact interconnected health care initiatives can have on people’s lives.”

Earlier in the summer, 17 dental students traveled to Houlton, Maine, to participate in a free community dental clinic, an annual event that attracted many local residents, primarily people without insurance. That program was sponsored by Aid for Kids, and Caring Hands of Maine.

Additionally, another dental service trip is being planned in conjunction with the St. Francis Mission in St. Francis, South Dakota, where students will be treating the Lakota people on the Rosebud reservation. It is scheduled for October, subject to any COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

“These are invaluable experiences for our students,” said Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students in the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “Opportunities for hands-on learning and patient interaction in different social settings is an important part of our educational curriculum. We provide a truly valuable community service, typically for disadvantaged populations, which is beneficial for everyone, patients and students alike.”