As an undergraduate at Loyola University Chicago, I knew I wanted to enrich my education with adventure and community service. I joined clubs, networked with numerous people, and made unforgettable memories. Global Brigades is the organization that had the biggest impact on my journey. After volunteering for two international trips, I knew I had found my future profession.
As a freshman, I traveled to Panama to provide health care to an impoverished community. I initially joined the medical group but later transitioned into the dental brigade because I had some background there – my mother is a dentist. Her abundance of knowledge and willingness to share her experiences increased my curiosity about dentistry as a career. With the dental brigade, I was amazed by how far many of the patients traveled and how long they would wait in line under the scorching sun to be seen. After a procedure, the doctors gave each patient individualized advice on how to maintain their oral health. The dentists provided the necessary services, but they also listened to their patients’ concerns.
I saw how they used their profession as a platform to educate their Panamanian patients about proper oral care. It dawned on me that dentists are not only health providers but also educators. Their dental degree increases their opportunities to improve the lives of others. This motivated me to give a short presentation about the importance of brushing and good oral hygiene to young children. After four days of nonstop assisting, sterilizing and sorting supplies, I was physically exhausted. But I was more motivated than ever to pursue a dental profession.
The following year, I traveled with another dental brigade to Honduras because I wanted to relive the excitement and provide aid in a new place. The experience proved to be equally rewarding. Once again, I witnessed long lines of people waiting to be seen by the dentists. No matter how many people gathered, the doctors took their time to work with each patient. Their interest in each individual was remarkable.
These dental professionals were able to step outside their normal routines to dedicate themselves to quality care for people who need it. I strongly encourage participating in service trips, either before or during dental school. You may see a different style of dentistry being done, but at the heart of it you’ll see the compassion and devotion that makes oral health providers who they are.
I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities that allow you to experience different cultures and perspectives because you never know where it may lead you. For me, it led me to dental school and a bright career ahead. It could lead you into opportunities you never thought possible. For more information on the Dental Brigade, visit their website here.
~ Michelle Singapori, Marquette ’20