Aug. 9, 2010
NOTE: Georgia State University does not have a dental clinic. For more information about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, call 404-881-1858 or visit http://benmasselldentalclinic.com.
The Ben Massell Dental Clinic is metro Atlanta’s major indigent dental care facility, aiding patients who cannot otherwise afford care for their teeth.
Alongside the volunteer dentists donating their time to the clinic, the students of Georgia State University’s American Undergraduate Dental Association (AUDA) chapter were able to help the clinic’s clients maintain their smiles this summer.
The 15 GSU students participating in the summer AUDA project logged more than 600 hours of volunteer time at the clinic, where they assisted fourth-year Medical College of Georgia (MCG) School of Dentistry students in performing multiple dental procedures, such as tooth extractions, fillings and even root canals.
“The best thing about being able to volunteer here is that you get an experience that many people don’t get anywhere else,” said Songkhla N. Venza, president of the GSU AUDA. “We are really allowed to get into the trenches and work with patients, learn about patient interaction, see the procedures and learn the instruments.”
The experience isn’t one that many undergraduates who are considering going into dentistry get, said Daren J. Becker, an Atlanta dentist and adjunct faculty for the MCG School of Dentistry.
“They’re getting an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s helpful because it allows them to have more of a sense that they’re in charge. In dental school, everything’s orchestrated and planned out, and here, they get a real-world experience, like they’re the dentist. They get an opportunity to build up speed and confidence.”
Often, the only experience some pre-dental students get is to simply shadow a dentist. But the GSU AUDA students went well beyond that.
“When we are at the Massell clinic, we’re not just standing in the corner, watching other dentists,” said Tabatha Reece, who participated in the program. “We were actually assisting fourth year dental students, and I don’t think many dentists’ offices would allow us to do this.”
Some of the students in AUDA, like Reece — who transferred from Reinhardt University in 2009 to GSU in order get a jump in her undergraduate pre-dental studies — are traditional undergraduate biology majors in GSU’s pre-med track.
Other participants are post-baccalaureate students, having earned degrees in different fields who wanted to change career paths. For example, Venza earned her degree in decision science at GSU; Ryan Vaughn earned a degree in French from GSU.
“For me, French was my favorite thing at the time,” Vaughn said. “I taught for a year, but found out it wasn’t for me, and I took a year off. I visited my dentist, and he suggested that I shadow him. I really liked it, and getting to assist in procedures is really fun.”
Working at the clinic is not easy, but it’s a rewarding experience that will aid students in applying to get into dental school.
“Because there are high expectations, we’re expected to know what we’re doing, and if they show us once or a couple of times how to do something, we should know it from then on out,” said Charlene Brown. “It’s that kind of pressure that makes you want to do better.”
Beyond that, it’s also rewarding to help out those in need. “It’s great to work with Massell,” Reece said. “After coming in, the clients just feel better, and feel better about themselves. Until you go and do it, you don’t realize how rewarding it truly is.”
During spring break this year, AUDA students also volunteered to perform dental work in Costa Rica. In September, the GSU AUDA will have another round of rotations at the clinic.
For more about the pre-medical undergraduate biology program (which many AUDA students fall under), visit http://biology.gsu.edu. For more about the GSU AUDA and its volunteer projects, e-mail email@example.com.