The UConn School of Dental Medicine recently hosted an educational event, referred to as a Passport to Dentistry, for participants of the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford. The event was an opportunity for students of the Boys and Girls Club to become familiar with opportunities in the field of dental medicine.
Eighteen students participated in the event that consisted of a presentation that included an overview of dental medicine, career options in dental medicine and educational pathways as an introduction to exploring the world of dentistry as a career option.
Following the presentation, students participated in a series of hands-on, experiential activities that closely simulated different aspects of dental practice, including making impressions and fabricating models, restoring plastic teeth, and performing dental treatment using 3D Simodont™ virtual reality units.
Current UConn dental students participated in the event, along with School of Dental Medicine faculty, serving as mentors for the hands-on experiences. Tyler James, a third-year student was among the students who volunteered at the event and helped facilitate the impressions and models group.
“The students learned how impressions are used in dentistry and made impressions of their fingers and poured models to bring home with them,” says James. “It was great to be able to do so many hands-on activities as it got the students really excited.”
For James, who attended the dental preparatory program through the Health Careers Opportunity Program at UConn Health during her time in college, this was an opportunity to be a role model for younger students.
The goal of the event was to provide the students from the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford with a realistic exposure to dental medicine. Feedback from staff of the Boys and Girls Club who accompanied the participants was exceptionally positive.
“It was wonderful to host the students from the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford. The students seemed to enjoy the hands-on activities,” says Dr. Donna Paolella, associate dean for admissions in the School of Dental Medicine. “The event was fun, entertaining and educational.”
Dr. Marja Hurley, UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and associate dean of Health Career Opportunity Programs, is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Boys and Girls Club. Dr. Hurley stated that one of her goals in serving as a trustee was to facilitate engagement, mentoring, and increased awareness of careers in dental medicine and medicine among the youth of the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford and she enjoyed observing the excitement as they engaged with students and faculty during the program.
Dr. Steven Lepowsky, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, led the virtual reality activity. “It was rewarding to see the students embrace the available technology and get a sense of what it is like to practice dentistry,” says Lepowsky. “Hopefully we sparked some interest in dental medicine as a career and it encouraged the students to work hard in school.”