In Service of Smiles During the Summer

Begin Date: 
Sunday, September 15, 2019 - 3:00pm

If you ask dental students at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry why they are interested in pursuing a career in dentistry at UK, many times, they will mention service—their passion for providing community support and the many opportunities they can participate in at UK to provide care and engage with communities. For dental student Jenna Perkins, this calling to serve helped shape her summer before starting her second year in dental school. 

Jenna traveled to Mérida, Mexico, for two weeks during the summer to participate in a dental internship arranged by Work the World. To help provide participants insight into the differences and challenges associated with delivering healthcare in diverse settings, Work the World specializes in providing medical internships in locations including Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Although Jenna found she was the only student from the United States taking part in the Mérida internship, that did not diminish her experience as she interacted with other students representing the areas of dentistry, nursing, medicine, and physical therapy. “When I arrived, I was impressed with how much of a social culture there was among the other students in the house. Before I could even begin unpacking, people I’d met only minutes before invited me to Progresso Beach,” shares Jenna. 

Jenna’s days were filled with providing service in Mérida and nearby rural communities, shadowing other dental providers and assisting with a variety of treatments. “It was great to be able to take a clinical experience and match it with what I had previously learned in my classes from first year,” says Jenna. 

The evenings allowed for connecting with her housemates to learn about service, healthcare, and rural medicine in their areas of the world. “At any given moment, there were people from at least five different countries in the house. It was so easy to strike up a conversation not just about healthcare, but also about daily life in everyone’s home countries,” she adds. 

At UK, Jenna is involved with student organizations, including the American Association of Women Dentists and the American Student Dental Association, allowing her to support various service opportunities throughout the year. 

Thinking ahead to next summer, Jenna is already considering where she may want to travel, expanding upon last summer’s service trip, to learn how other areas of the world practice dentistry and medicine. Reflecting on her journey to Mérida , she shared, “Being able to step out of your comfort zone, meet people who don’t have the same experiences as you and like try to approach them with humility and serving them and working with them was something cool that I think most healthcare students in the US could benefit more from.”

Make a Gift Your gifts help support the academic, research and patient care missions of the UK College of Dentistry. Make a gift now.