Detroit is a bustling, rapidly growing city, home to students, young professionals, athletes and a variety of businesses. Unfortunately, it is also home to communities that may be struggling to make ends meet, putting their health care needs on the backburner due to high treatment costs and lack of access. The more I witnessed this dilemma, the more I wanted help give these individuals the care that they normally could not afford.
Enter Health Unit on Davison Avenue (HUDA) Clinic. The HUDA Clinic counteracts these obstacles by opening its doors to populations in need of proper care and providing low-cost or free treatment. The HUDA Clinic is a standalone medical facility that offers free medical services to the public, including primary care, mental health care and dental care. It achieves many of its goals through donations, including a recent $5,000 E. “Bud” Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Award from the ADA Foundation, local health care volunteers and student leadership. I had been volunteering at the HUDA Clinic for most of my undergraduate career, and when I started dental school, I realized that our students could help provide services at the HUDA Clinic. In my third year of dental school, after I had exposure to clinical experience and patient interaction, I was able to learn how many of these patients were struggling to afford dental care without proper insurance.
I created a dialogue between the HUDA Clinic, our student chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and Detroit Mercy administration to initiate a contract that allowed our students to provide clinical services at HUDA Clinic such as exams, cleanings, extractions and fillings. On a normal day, the HUDA Clinic would have one volunteer dentist and see about four or five patients. Through this collaboration, we would bring in two fourth-year dental students working under one supervising faculty member to provide care to more patients in a day. Currently, Detroit Mercy dental students visit the clinic one to two times a month and are able to provide treatment to almost twice as many patients, while also improving their skills, becoming better clinicians and having unforgettable interactions with the people they are serving.
Throughout my life, I have been dedicated to supporting my community and humanity as a whole. By collaborating with HUDA Clinic, I was able to share this experience with other students who were able to further their appreciation for the field of dentistry and how it is a humanitarian profession. Getting involved in community service projects involves responsibility — the well-being of others depends, in part, on you. Thus, community service entails that one must know how to be a leader. The ADA Foundation (the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of the American Dental Association) is there to support us now with opportunities such as dental student scholarships, the Tarrson Award and more, and will be there to help us fulfill our philanthropic goals throughout our careers. Last year alone, the ADA Foundation provided more than $3 million in grants, awards and scholarships, and facilitated in-kind donations through Give Kids A Smile. I encourage you to learn about their funding opportunities and get involved.
By being a role model through my leadership roles with the HUDA Clinic, I have been able to ignite a passion for community service and public health in my peers. My goal is for students to engage in this community service project and fall in love with it as I have, so that in the future, they will continue to find ways to give back to the community. My experiences down this path of dentistry have shown that community service and dentistry are intertwined. Prioritizing and improving others’ well-being is the fuel that drives dentistry forward, and community service — through dental care for those who can’t afford or access it — is a natural manifestation of that fuel. And not only do dentistry and community service share the same purpose of helping others, we even hope for the same results: a healthy smile from those we’ve helped.
~Dr. Sabrina Wadood, Detroit Mercy ’18