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

See all the photos of the fun HERE! You won’t want to miss these gems!

Written by: Sangita Murali (D18), Dr. Melissa Ing
Photo contributors: Kevin Campbell (D18), Dr. Melissa Ing

“Crime Boston” is a week-long summer camp held at Boston’s iconic Museum of Science (MoS) and is run by the MoS staff along with local guest volunteers.  What we found truly amazing about this applied learning experience is that on the last day of the forensics camp, a detective visits, chats with the kids about their experiences during the 5-day series, and offers a real-life perspective!

Over the course of the forensics summer series, the children learn skills such as fingerprinting analysis, ballistics, how to analyze blood splatters, and how if a splatter comes from a distance or is from a certain spray they can analyze it to gather information to create breaks and solve the next big mysterious cold case.  It was funny to note that when we arrived on Wednesday morning to set up our dental forensics workshop, that the MoS coordinators were still cleaning up all the red paint they used to simulate blood splatters.  The director for Crime Boston said they had it all over the floor the day before!

Tufts and UCONN Schools of Dental Medicine were invited last year to participate in the forensics summer series and both schools returned this year for another exciting opportunity to teach middle-school aged children about how important dental records, radiographs, and the jaws & teeth are for identifying suspects for events such as homicides and mass casualties.

Worthy to note is that this is is also the 2nd time this summer 2016 that Tufts and UConn Schools of Dental Medicine faculty and students have been hosted by the MoS since 25 dental students gathered on July 13, 2016 to run a Mini Medical School series under the guidance of Drs. Ing, Ganda, Whitworth, Tantaris, Nanda, Magnuson, Kosmidis, Dr. Goupil from UConn along with his two 4th year students. To read more about the Mini Medical School series, please read Dr. Ing’s lovely write-up which can be found HERE!

During the first part of our forensics presentation on August 17, 2016, we showed the children dental anatomy diagrams highlighting key features including tooth fossae, buccal grooves and the cusp of carabelli, an identifying feature any dental student will tell you is found on the mesio-lingual (mesio meaning towards the midline, and lingual meaning towards the tongue side) cusp of the 1st maxillary molar!  Tooth “boards” were created so that the summer camp students could visualize and feel sterilized human teeth all the way from the crown to the root.

Next up, we presented a video, a spoof on “Phantom of the Opera” which was entitled “Forensics at the Opera”.  Several students and faculty acted and sang in the movie — some very talented opera singers!  If you get a chance, listen to Jaime Valencia (D17) belt out “Figaro” and hear Dr. Britta Magnuson hit the high notes! The actors including Kevin Campbell (D18), Jordan Shapiro (D17), Dr. Frank Shin, Dr. Sheldon Yunes & Dr. James Theodore all made their debut with comical roles and of course it couldn’t have been done without custom-made, great music by Dr. Peter Arsenault!  If you get a chance please watch the whodunnit with special shattering glass sound effects created by talented and recent graduate, David Frantz (D15) HERE!

After the video spoof, Holly Fadie (D18) gave a wonderful presentation on how bite marks are an important way to identify people.  Holly set the scene as she described an incident in which someone broke into a house, left a foot print, a thumb print, and upon investigating the kitchen it was found that a bite was taken out of a sandwich!  Holly asked the kids, “could this be a clue?” The response from the eager learners was an emphatic, “YES.”  She then showed the kids how to use Play Doh in an exercise to reveal how each set of tooth prints differs from another.  Additionally, we used styrofoam plates and had the children bite into those.  The kids were then put up to the task of matching up the Play Doh marks with the styrofoam marks to see how accurately they could match up bite marks and solve the forensic mystery.

Following the bite marks match-up exercise, we showed the children how we use alginates to make real life impressions of teeth.  Our students helped the kids take an impression of either an upper or lower arch of a Typodont.  The summer camp children were beyond excited to take their impressions home in a plastic baggy to show their families missing teeth, crown preps, and normal anatomic features like the cusps and buccal grooves we discussed previously, for example.

Next, Dr. Mike Goupil from UCONN, Associate Dean of Students, oral surgeon faculty, and forensic dentist, gave a presentation on dental forensics odontology.  He also set up a make-believe scenario on a mass casualty that happened at the Museum of Fine Arts the day before and told the children that 12 people needed to be identified. We are especially grateful to Dr. Goupil for bringing along his portable human specimens lab that is used to teach forensics and for his preparation of the 12 ” victims” for the museum event.

The students were charged with looking at tagged human specimen remains, X-rays, and dental records to come up with a positive identification of the victims.  Within minutes, children were able to identify ‘silver fillings’ on the x-rays and match them up to the specimen in front of them. The kids did an incredible job detecting cavities on x-rays as these came up as dark spaces as opposed to the fillings which appear brighter.  By the end of the task, the kids effortlessly counted teeth, detected missing teeth, identified root tips, and evaluated bone loss as a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis (two forms of gum disease) – it was an incredible teaching and learning experience for everyone who attended!

All in all, we feel that the children had a very rewarding, educational, and entertaining session with us. The MoS staff were very enthusiastic and our students had a wonderful time teaching the kids, getting a different perspective on dentistry, and participating in community service learning. It was truly just a good chance to mix, mingle and enjoy time with dental students from another school. We cannot wait to collaborate with everyone again soon!

We would like to extend a special thanks to Kevin Campbell (D18) for his extreme multi-tasking abilities as he not only participated in all the various stations and activities during the forensics workshop, but also took wonderful photos and captured sweet memories at the MoS and during the movie-making magic.

All of the students who participated would like to offer their deep gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Melissa Ing who had the vision to create such a comprehensive event and make it possible to give back to the Boston community we love so much.  When I asked Dr. Ing what inspired her to fabricate such a wonderful workshop, she recalled volunteering as a dental student back in the 80s.  Volunteering and giving back to the community did not stop once Dr. Ing completed her dental school studies and when she taught at UCONN after her studies, she initiated something similar to our forensics summer camp series. Dr. Ing mentioned that “during Children’s Dental Health Month at UCONN, we would teach kids how to take care of their teeth, but also give them a little intro into dentistry in case they wanted to consider the health sciences as a career.  Their new CT Science Center at the time was just starting up a human life section-pretty amazing, when I left for Boston.  I had my boyfriend dress up as a giant tube of toothpaste (he was a huge hit and still talks to me after all of that).” Dr. Ing has vivid memories of him, in his high fashioned toothpaste disguise, teaching the little kids about the number of teeth in animals such as dogs, cats, alligators, and birds!  During Children’s Dental Health Month at UConn, Dr. Ing noted that all age-groups were invited and were catered to during the activities accordingly.

Tufts and UConn students are thankful that when Dr. Ing came to Boston in 2011, that her love for the MoS and making a difference was still very much alive as she worked with Liz Kong, manager of the Hall of Human Life, to see how they could collaborate on a project and bring it to fruition in the city. The Crime Boston summer series was able to add in the importance of dental forensics as a positive means of victim identification due to the collaboration with TUSDM starting in 2015 and continuing on this year. Sometimes fingerprints or other means of identification are missing or non-existent so dental records, x-rays and teeth come to the rescue! Students and faculty from Tufts and UCONN SDM were enthusiastic for the opportunity to use their didactic and clinical skills to enrich and make a positive impact on young minds in this way.

An exciting new development unfolded last week and Dr. Ing’s abstract for this community service learning initiative called “Night at the Museum: creating unique community service learning masterpieces” has been accepted to the 2017 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition! Tufts faculty along with Dr. Ing will be traveling to Long Beach, CA to present their findings and initiatives from March 18-21 — Stay tuned for more developments to come!

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