Dental Students Reach out to Help Serve Connecticut Veterans

The students recently participated in the 2023 Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down event

Dental students at the Bristol location. (Max Einbinder photo)

From left: UConn dental students Lenka Serdar, Madeline Sturm, Max Einbinder, and Megna Senthilnathan staff a table at the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down in Bristol. (Max Einbinder photo)

With access to oral health care a significant hurdle for many veterans, students in the School of Dental Medicine helped provide free oral health screenings and education to nearly 60 veterans in Connecticut.

The students recently participated in the 2023 Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down event—a daylong event that connects Connecticut veterans with essential services and programs offered by federal, state, and local agencies, organizations, and non-profits. The event was held at five regional locations: Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Norwich, and Rocky Hill.

Seven dental students participated in the Bridgeport and Bristol locations.

In Bridgeport—a site that aided nearly 250 veterans— the students performed 50 oral health screenings, made 20 referrals to the upcoming Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic, and gave out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to over 100 veterans.

Group portrait at service table
UConn dental students PJ Schwalm (left) Sierra Furey and John Todd (right), with Dr. John Agar (second from left) volunteer at the the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down in Bridgeport Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo provided by PJ Schwalm)

“All services were certainly appreciated, and our oral health screenings reduced anxiety for many people who knew something was wrong with their oral health but couldn’t pinpoint the issue and didn’t know how to go about fixing it,” said PJ Schwalm, member of the Class of 2025 and dental student site lead for the Bridgeport location.

In Bristol, the students conducted oral exam for 8 veterans, and provided supplies and information on how to access dental care at UConn Health to an additional 7 individuals.

“One of our primary goals was to ensure that the veterans knew they had a welcoming dental home at UConn, conveniently located not too far away,” said Max Einbinder, Class of 2024 and site lead for the Bristol location.

“We felt a sense of pride representing UConn at an event dedicated to such an important cause,” Einbinder continued.

Not only did the students provide essential services for veterans, but also gained valuable clinical learning experience alongside faculty members who were also in attendance.

“We gained plenty of clinical experience working alongside professor of reconstructive sciences Dr. John Agar to learn more about potentially cancerous lesions, and we even saw a rare case of combination syndrome,” said Schwalm.

“Opportunities like this to serve all communities in Connecticut give the students timeless experiences.  Through engaging with the Veterans in this event, the students can learn from personal stories that go beyond dentistry while providing a service through screening and oral health education,” said Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students at the School of Dental Medicine.