If you were to look into the eyes of those queuing for treatment at a free dental clinic in India, you would see many swollen faces, pain-filled eyes, and smiling faces of treated patients leaving the clinic. In India, dental hygiene is given a low priority in many lives and often ignored altogether. Total loss of teeth in early middle age is accepted as a normal consequence of aging. I worked on various educational projects and screening camps during my undergraduate studies. The most valuable were those conducted in rural schools and orphanages to teach the young about the importance of basic dental hygiene for oral and general health.
There is a habit in many rural areas in India known as ‘reverse smoking.’. This involves smoking from the lit end of the cigarette and is extremely dangerous to oral health, carrying a high risk of perforation of the palate and malignancy of the oral mucosa. One day an older man came to our community clinic; when I was undertaking rural rotations, his main complaint was a small hole in his cheek which he asked us to repair. The spot was, in fact, a complete perforation of the palate and buccal mucosa. This was the first of many similar cases I saw in my rural rotations. The provisional diagnosis, in this case, was Squamous Cell Carcinoma caused by reverse smoking. I was shocked, but this man’s problem was not particularly unusual.
On one rural rotation, I suggested we improvise theater instead of giving the approved health talk to get the message across. I wrote the script, organized the cast, and made the travel arrangements. Village leaders and elders were given personal invitations. The event was very successful and attracted a large audience. The play was about the dangers of reverse smoking, and we established that many in the audience had been entirely unaware of the risks. Many came forward at the end to request further information or to be examined. I regard this as one of the most valuable things I have ever done because I believe we started a process in that part of India that will save many lives.
After graduation, I was fortunate to be offered a post in the dental wing of the most prestigious private hospital in my locality, one of the Yashoda group of hospitals. I worked as a Dental Surgeon under the direction of the Chief Prosthodontist and Implantologist, Dr. XXXX. I was also mentored by other highly experienced dentists, providing me with opportunities to use the most advanced equipment, such as wand-like intra-oral cameras and caries detector lights. I am very excited about technological developments and look forward to seeing more. I worked in an environment that was in great contrast to the free clinics that I knew as a student, money was often of little consequence to our patients, and expensive crown and implant treatments were common. The experience of having worked at ‘both ends of the spectrum has been extraordinarily informative and has made me determined to give part of my time and skills to those unable to pay for treatment. Dentistry is a prestigious and well-rewarded profession, and I believe that this places an unavoidable responsibility on me to ‘give something back.'
Since arriving in the US, I have shadowed an excellent practitioner, Dr. XXXX. I have familiarized myself with the dental environment here and now feel ready to join a doctoral program to enable me to practice here in America. I am very excited at the prospect of doing so. I am aware of cultural awareness and sensitivity in healthcare provision. I speak some Spanish and am constantly improving, focusing on the vocabulary most useful for oral health care. I look forward to learning from your distinguished faculty and my fellow students and dentists worldwide and sharing experiences.
I know that the program will attract many well-qualified applicants. However, I genuinely believe that I am an excellent candidate. Passionate about dentistry, I could not be more interested in learning about and applying modern techniques and treatments. I look forward to working in free clinics to treat the underserved. I believe my experiences in rural India will enable me to contribute some interesting insights to share during class discussions.
Thank you for giving my application your attention and consideration.