Diversity + Outreach

Serving together, six feet apart

Once a month, I used to walk from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine down Washington Street to the New England Center and Home for Veterans to serve dinner. Although the COVID-19 vaccine offers new hope, in-person outreach is still on hold for Tufts ASDA. Most dental students enjoy giving back. For me, it reminds me that the world is bigger than my next exam. So when the Council on Professional Issues (COPI) was challenged with reimagining Week of Service for a virtual world, I was happy to get to work.

To continue the tradition, and considering the increased food insecurity due to COVID-19, we started with the can challenge! Collecting both coats and cans allowed more flexibility for each chapter.

There is something powerful about a collective working toward the same goal — serving together, six feet apart. ASDA chapters across the country participated in the coats and cans challenge, collecting hundreds of items this year! COPI Chair Joell Chen, Roseman ’21, cheerfully reflected on this year’s challenge: “There is no doubt that students have positively impacted their communities during this difficult time!” Thank you to all ASDA chapters for your generosity.

I really enjoyed following #ASDAWeekofService as chapters made this initiative their own. Roseman ASDA used the week to highlight their chapter’s letters to the elderly, in addition to sparking some friendly competition among classes as they collected coats and cans. ASDA at WesternU created a healing words station in their sim clinic. They created a friendly social media reminder with their top five ways to serve together, while remaining six feet apart.

At Tufts, we added books to our Week of Service drive. Compared to years past, we had to make a few adjustments for a socially distant collection and distribution. Instead of placing multiple collection boxes in classrooms, we placed a single box in the lobby. What a hit! On the first day of our donation drive, the collection box quickly filled with all kinds of books, and we added a second box. While the books headed to a new local charity, the coats and cans were sorted for the New England Center and Home for Veterans.  

On COPI, we also thought about all the students who wouldn’t be allowed to gather and the students who are taking online courses. For the first time in the Week of Service’s four-year history, we added an individual challenge. Students were encouraged to pledge to volunteer through Dental Lifeline Network (DLN), a nonprofit providing free, comprehensive dental treatment to our country’s most vulnerable people including those with disabilities, are elderly or medically fragile. Ten ASDA members who signed the pledge during Week of Service won an Oral-B electric toothbrush. Dental students can still visit dentallifeline.org and pledge, upon graduation, to see one adult with special needs. This nonprofit captured the spirit of this year’s service challenge. Each and every one of us can positively impact the lives of others, even while we are apart.

I hope you were inspired by all the #ASDAWeekofService posts and activities. Learn more about virtual or hometown service opportunities.

Additional resources

~Alia Osseiran, Tufts ’22, ASDA District 1 Trustee

Alia Osseiran

Alia Osseiran, MPH, MS, is a third-year dental student at Tufts University School of Medicine. She is passionate about advocating for our profession on the local, district and national level. When not practicing dentistry, she can be found teaching essential healthy life skills to children through her nonprofit, Box for Health.

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