Dental Students and Faculty Participate in Community Outreach Projects

Community service projects and outreach, locally and nationally, remain a key component for UConn's School of Dental Medicine.

Participants at the dental clinic in South Dakota included, from left, Carrie Klein, Dr. Sarita Arteaga, Alicia Kraus, Karen Albert, Dr. Maryann Lehmann, Carolyn Catelan, and Dr. Ron Albert.

UConn School of Dental Medicine students from the Special Care Dentistry Interest Group (SCDIG) joined organizers and other participants in a special event for the West Hartford Miracle League, a baseball organization for children with special needs. The Halloween-related trick or treat event was held October 30 in West Hartford. The students worked with the Hartford Dental Society to hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste, and to provide oral hygiene instruction to children and parents.

Third-year dental student Lauren Gross was one of the organizers for UConn, and Brent Bracco, also a third-year dental student, serves as SCDIG vice president. “We had a lot of fun participating in the Miracle League Trick or Treat event,” says Bracco. “It was a joy to spend time with the children and see the smiles on their faces while we promoted oral health on behalf of the Hartford Dental Society!”

Volunteers at the Halloween event in West Hartford, Conn., included dental school students (from left): Nicole Colon Cruz, Carly Ramirez, Emma Warren, and Quinn Kropf. Behind them is past president of HDS, Dr. David Burkhard, a dental school alumnus.

Meanwhile, across the country, three dental school faculty members, Drs. Sarita Arteaga, Ron Albert and Maryann Lehmann participated in the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic in South Dakota, in support of the Rosebud reservation, which serves the Lakota people. There they provided dental care for more than 130 patients, during a four-day visit in October.

“It was quite invigorating to provide dental care for the patients, who may not have another dentist visit for months — the need is significant,” says Arteaga, DMD, the dental school’s associate dean for students. “Many of these patients have diabetes and hypertension, which has a substantial connection to dental problems, and the young children are afflicted with severe dental decay. It was a valuable and rewarding experience for us, and we know we made a difference for these patients.”

The trip to South Dakota was a pilot program; another visit, with dental students included, is being planned for spring 2022.