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Q&A with 2017 Scholarship Winner Elizabeth Betances

DTA Foundation/Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund Scholarship Recipient Elizabeth Betances, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

Dental school is a very busy time, why did you decide to commit so much of your time to helping the community?
A large part of dental school is spent studying in the library and working on projects in pre-clinic, especially during the first two years. I felt like participating in community service during that time reminded me of why I entered the dental field. Interacting with the kids and adults in our community inspired me to excel so that I could develop the skills to better serve them. When I reached the clinic, I realized the disparities that exist, and how prevention in the community could help to improve these gaps. It was interactive, personable, and honestly just really fun.

What is your favorite community volunteer activity?
One of my favorite volunteer activities is working with the kids in the elementary schools and health fairs. After going over brushing techniques and flossing, they all rushed to line up and practice on our wide-toothed stuffed monkey. They asked questions about snacks they ate, showed me their teeth, and told me stories of their siblings and parents who’ve had some sort of dental treatment. It’s nice to evoke this sense of excitement about oral health and to be received with so much affection.

Why do you think it’s important for the oral health profession to come together and support the community like you are doing now?
As oral health professionals, it’s important that we come together to identify the needs of our communities and to show them what resources are available. Oral health care disparity is an ongoing issue in our country. One of our biggest assets is education. By screening individuals for their needs, identifying medical needs that may also be overlooked, and developing a plan to get them proper treatment, we can help remedy this. Sharing oral care knowledge with our communities is an invaluable service that can promote self-care while building a trusting and ongoing relationship.

How will having this scholarship help you as you finish school?
The Dental Trade Alliance Scholarship is a huge help in alleviating some of the financial burdens that arise in the last year of school. Many of us are restricted by the expenditures of licensure and boards, preventing us from participating in extracurricular activities. Regardless of these expenses, I’ve participated in the Global Service Learning Trip to the Dominican Republic every year since I was a freshman by using raised funds. I’ve also reached out to Dentist for Humanity to explore our school’s annual trip to Haiti in April. The scholarship will allow me the liberty of traveling to explore options for employment after graduation. It is nice to receive recognition for our work during school, especially when it’s not expected.

Is there a message you’d like to pass along to the people who donate to the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation and make these scholarships possible?
Thank you to all of the donors to the DTA Foundation for valuing the efforts that we as students put forth to improve the communities around us. As students, we are limited in the services, resources, and time we can provide. However, I guarantee that our involvement now is just a projection of the time we will dedicate to community service in the future. I personally aim to work with underserved populations, both locally and globally, as I progress through my career, and will not forget to incentivize young professionals entering our field, the way that you have done for me.