If you were to look into the eyes of those queuing for treatment at a free dental clinic in India, you would l see many swollen face and pain filled eyes but also the smiling faces of treated patients leaving the clinic. In India, dental hygiene is given a low priority in the lives of many and often ignored altogether. Total loss of teeth in early middle age is accepted as a normal consequence of aging. I spent a great deal of time during my undergraduate studies working on various educational projects and screening camps and the most valuable, in my view, were those that were conducted in rural schools and orphanages in order to teach those young enough to fully benefit from information about the importance of basic dental hygiene not only for oral but also 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 it is extremely dangerous to oral health carrying high risk of perforation of the palate and malignancy of the oral mucosa. One day an elderly 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 hole 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 and surprised but went on to discover that this man’s problem was not particularly unusual.
On one rural rotation I suggested that, instead of giving the approved health talk, we put on a play 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 completely unaware of the dangers. Many came forward at the end to request further information or to be examined. I regard this as one of the most useful things that I have ever done and believe that we started a process in that part of India that will result in the saving of many lives.
After graduation, I was very 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 and was able to use the most advanced equipment such as wand-like intra-oral cameras and caries detector lights. I am very excited about such useful and interesting technological developments and look forward to seeing many 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 extremely edifying 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 been ‘shadowing’ 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 and I am very excited at the prospect of doing so. I am aware of the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity in healthcare provision. I speak some Spanish and I am making rapid progress towards fluency at an intermediate level with a special focus on the vocabulary most useful for oral health care. I am very much looking forward to learning not only from your distinguished faculty but also my fellow students, dentists originally from all over the world, 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 the most modern techniques and treatments available. I particularly look forward to working in free clinics to provide treatment to the underserved and I believe that 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.