I was raised in a small rural town in Albania in which the most basic health and dental services were lacking and suffered both personally, and in the loss of a family member, as a direct result of this situation. Dental and oral health was generally regarded with indifference. Seeing comparatively young people with missing teeth is common and, by mid to late middle age, many people in such communities have lost the majority of their teeth with the consequent unfortunate results in terms of personal appearance and dietary choices. My environment and experiences resulted in a decision at an early age that I could be of great use 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 effects 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.
My ambition is to work in a small, underserved community such as the one into which I was born. I am particularly interested in applying effective preventative instruction to the general population, especially children and to the less advantaged in society. I would hope to create relationships with schools and youth organizations to help educate the young in basic dental health. It is clear that there remains much work to be done in the matter of 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 in impoverished communities and homeless people both here and abroad.
In the summer of 2012, I was given the opportunity to assist at a dental clinic in Albania. Seeing grimaces of pain turn so quickly into smiles of relief totally confirmed me in my career aspiration. I collected information about the patients’ dental care routines and established that many patients use dilute lemon juice in place of toothpaste and some had no dental hygiene routine at all. I also discovered that there was no organized preventative dental health program and that there is no water fluoridation. In response to these distressing findings, I wrote a brochure in Albanian emphasising the dangers of using lemon juice to clean teeth and to provide basic dental health information and distributed this to patients. I realize that 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 be joining a dental mission to the Abayudaya community in Uganda and am greatly looking forward to assisting in the improvement of dental health among them.
On my return from Albania, I undertook some research among relatives living in the US and 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 at the age of 12 with little English, I can sympathise with this outlook but 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 others. I am bilingual in English and Albanian.
My family has not been in a position to assist me financially during my bachelor 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 I believe will serve me well in my future studies and career. However this situation has also resulted in me having insufficient time to undertake as much relevant volunteer work and ‘shadowing’ as I would have wished but 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 to be highly satisfying work.
I am passionate in my ambition to become a dental practitioner and the reader can be assured that I will apply myself with exceptional diligence and determination to the program in order to excel within it and in my future career.