Building student involvement, fostering civic engagement and enhancing community service to advance public health. 

 Paul Famer Talk (1)On November 4th D18s Lauren Gerkowicz, Mary Keezel, Kevin Campbell, Hannah Cook and I attended a talk by Dr. Paul Farmer at Boston University.  For those that don’t know, Dr. Paul Farmer is considered by many to be one of the foremost experts on public health.  He has a Medical Degree and a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University; and is trained in the fields of infectious diseases and internal medicine.  He is one of the founders of Partners in Health, has numerous accolades, and has been instrumental in bringing quality healthcare to nations around the globe. His talk was titled “ The Current Status of Global Health.”

During this talk his main focus was on the Ebola outbreak and the role him and his organization played in Sierra Leone. Throughout his talk he highlighted the importance of providing quality healthcare to developing nations. He pressed upon everyone in the audience that providing access to care is not only morally justified, but in many instances economically justified as well. His highlighting of the Ebola outbreak was gut wrenching. He recounted the countless lives lost and the lives of those who he was close too. He told us about the heroic sacrifice made by medical professionals in certain areas who choose to stay and help even though they knew they would most likely die providing care. He went into depth regarding the challenges regarding an outbreak such as Ebola in a nation that had a lack of infrastructure. He also touched upon the role Partners in Health has had in providing healthcare and infrastructure in Haiti and in other developing nations.

It is hard to truly describe the inspiration and awe that was circulating the room of over 500 people that afternoon. Hearing the challenges, triumphs, and the progress that had been facilitated and brought about by Dr. Farmer and the countless others involved in the organization; left us all feeling more empowered about the potential impact we can have on the world. As dental students sometimes it is easy to forget that we can play an important role in promoting public health and access to care not only in our own communities, but also around the world. The impact that dental diseases have on the world is astounding. Working closely with Dr. Morgan on the 15th floor I have been able to understand the need for the dental profession to be more aware of the impact we can have on the world. A 2015 systematic review published by the Journal of Dental Research listed untreated dental caries as the number one most prevalent disease in the world in adults and number ten in children.[1] Another study from the same journal found that dental caries resulted in 144 billion dollars of economic productivity lost yearly. [2]

During the Q&A session I was able to ask Dr. Farmer a question regarding dental diseases and their impact around the globe. He then directed me to another person who could better answer my questions, and I cannot tell you the pride I felt when his reference was in fact TUSDM Alumni, Nicholas Gordon. Nicholas graduated from Tufts with a DMD, and is now a public health resident at Boston University. It was awesome to realize that there is progress being made in regards to Global Dental Health and that Tufts is helping in this endeavor. After Dr. Famers talk we all left confident in what we can do individually and as a profession to alleviate the unnecessary suffering attributed to dental diseases around the globe.

Robert Geary (D18)

Categories: Reflections