I was raised in a rural town in Albania. The most basic health and dental services were lacking, and I suffered personally. Dental and oral health was generally regarded with indifference. Seeing comparatively young people with missing teeth is common. By mid to late middle age, many in such communities have lost most of their teeth, resulting in unfortunate personal appearance and dietary choices. My environment and experiences made me decide early on that I could be useful in providing health services to an underserved community.
I am particularly attracted to dentistry because it calls for creativity as well as scientific knowledge, because of the often immediate, beneficial effects of treatment, because its products can be life-enhancing, because of the exciting and constant advances in techniques and materials, and because of the clear link between oral and dental health and the general well-being of patients.
I aim to work in a small, underserved community like my upbringing. I am particularly interested in applying effective preventative instruction to the general population, especially children and the less advantaged. I hope to create relationships with schools and youth organizations to help educate the young on essential dental health. It is clear that there remains much work to be done in effective preventative education in the US, and the key, I believe, is to start with the very young. I am also firmly intent on regularly giving my time and skills to impoverished communities and homeless people here and abroad.
In 2012, I was allowed to assist at a dental clinic in Albania. Seeing grimaces of pain turn so quickly into smiles of relief confirmed my career aspiration. I collected information about the patient’s dental care routines. I established that many patients use diluted lemon juice instead of toothpaste, and some have no dental hygiene routine. I also discovered no organized preventative dental health program or water fluoridation. In response to these distressing findings, I wrote a brochure in Albanian emphasizing the dangers of using lemon juice to clean teeth and providing primary dental health information and distributed this to patients. I realize this is a small step, but educating one person will hopefully affect choices and outcomes for whole families and possibly communities. In October this year, I shall join a dental mission to the Abayudaya community in Uganda and look forward to assisting in improving their dental health.
On my return from Albania, I undertook some research among relatives living in the US. I was shocked to discover that, in general, dental services are sought only to relieve pain and not as a regular health routine. Part of the reluctance arises from language and communication difficulties and resultant embarrassment. As an immigrant who came to America at 12 with little English, I sympathize with this outlook. I hope to be part of the remedy by encouraging regular dental checks among those who might otherwise avoid them. I have studied and socialized with people from many ethnic and social backgrounds and enjoy doing so. I enjoy sharing information about my own culture and learning about others. I am bilingual in English and Albanian.
My family has not been in a position to assist me financially during my bachelor's degree studies, and so it has been necessary for me to work to finance them. The need to study and work has called for exceptional discipline, planning, and determination, which will serve me well in my future studies and career. However, this situation has also resulted in insufficient time to undertake as much relevant volunteer work and ‘shadowing’ as I would have wished. Still, I have been able to devote a few hours each month to voluntary work in hospitals, dental clinics, and pharmacies. I have also assisted in a homeless shelter which I found incredibly satisfying.
I am passionate about becoming a dental practitioner, and the reader can be assured that I will apply exceptional diligence and determination to the program to excel.
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