On November 4th, 2016 Smile Squad members started off their first weekend of November volunteering at the Medford Sikh Temple with Dr. Neela Gandhi where they provided oral hygiene instructions along with oral cancer screenings. We are very fortunate for being able to participate in this event that the India Medical Association of New England (IMANE) organized. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Indian culture while giving back to the community. Dr. Gandhi lead the Oral Health Awareness and the cancer screening to the local Sikh Community in Medford. Tufts Dental Students, Sangita Murali (D’18), Thais Antunes (D’20), Sandy Lopez (D’20), Ramandeep Kaur (D’20) and Simran Kaur (D’20) assisted Dr. Gandhi at the temple by demonstrating proper oral hygiene techniques, distributing toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss along with teaching the community very important oral hygiene tips.
An interesting part of this event was that the volunteers had an opportunity to appreciate the cultural and religious aspect of the Sikh community. They were respectful in terms of following the norms of the Sikh temple, by covering their head and removing their shoes. They also shared meals during Langar, which is a community service kitchen that feeds all members.
One of the challenges of this event was communication. A lot of members at the temple did not speak English, and it was somewhat difficult to explain proper hygiene instructions. Luckily, we had two volunteers who spoke Punjabi, Simran Kaur and Ramandeep Kaur. They were the perfect translators and did an excellent job bridging the communication gap.
Overall, this event served to help us better understand the importance of cultural awareness as rising health professionals. It was also the perfect way to start off the month of November by taking some time off of our busy weekend to give back to the local community.