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

  • Statement from the Tufts HPSP Student Organization:

Veterans Day is such a special time for the many Americans who have had loved ones serve this great country. The freedoms that war vets have fought for us to have comes at a great price, during and after their service. This day is not only to honor their time serving our country, but to raise awareness on the many issues that Veterans have faced while in and after they leave the military. The sacrifices they have made during their time serving can have lasting implications in their lives. This holiday is a reminder that we not need only thank them for their fight to protect us and our nation but to be alongside them in support and advocacy as they navigate life as a Veteran.

As members of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), we understand the significance of this day. Some of us are veterans ourselves and some of us have family members who have served in Vietnam, WW II and the War On Terror. All of us, however, will one day soon raise our right hand again and take that same oath to this country as military dentists. During our time in the military, the types of missions we will complete will change but the mission that will stay with us forever during and after our military careers will be the mission for the Veterans and their care. This is a personal mission, as we too will all become veterans at some point.

The HPSP club is so very thankful for all those who have served before us and opened the path for these issues to come to light. Today and everyday, we raise a salute to all Veterans for their dedication, selflessness, patience and honor to our country.

 

My dad was in the Army, so I grew up celebrating Veterans Day on the base. We would take walks and talk through our family history—there’s a long tradition of serving in the Army in my family.

 

We saw it as a memorial holiday, meant to commemorate those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

It was my family legacy that inspired me to join, for sure; I knew even when I was still in high school that I wanted to do so. At the time, my dad wasn’t super-excited about the plan. He worried that the Army is sometimes too hard on women and suggested I join the Air Force instead, but, of course, I wanted to do what he did. In the end, he guided me through a lot of training.

 

The experience has been everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m incredibly lucky now to be enrolled in dental school through the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. I’ll be a captain dentist when I graduate. Because of my field, I probably won’t be in harm’s way, so my service will be giving back to my fellow soldiers as their dentist, taking care of them in that way. To me, that’s very meaningful. I can’t wait!

TUSDM Cares for Veterans Program (formerly Service with a Smile), which provides dental screenings and care to veterans who would otherwise go without. 

  • This initiative was also a part of the Tisch Summer Fellows program, in which students like Kayla Birde, D22, spent much of the summer providing screenings and connecting patients from New England Center and Home for Veterans to care at the Dental School.  Kayla presented at a Tisch Summer Fellow Symposium on Health and Homelessness on November 8th, talking about the ways she and her classmates helped the veterans navigate barriers such as transportation in order to access the dental care that rarely included with other veteran health services and benefits. “I have been so fortunate to work with this community of homeless Veteran patients. Each of them has a story and unique journey, but what parallels for all of them is that they have selflessly served our country in the armed forces, and all deserve access to dental care. These experiences have given me invaluable insight into the struggles and barriers that our homeless veterans face on a daily basis. I’m confident that when I graduate, I will always find a way to give back to those that have given so much. With the tools and skills I have gained, I can make more than a living and career, I can make a difference in people’s lives.”

 

Submitted by Olivia Ingram from her patient seen through the TUSDM Cares for Veterans program:

Veterans Day for me: It’s always been a day to honor those who serve & served. My grandparents were immigrants & I come from a family who served. My great uncle was in WWI. My father, his brother, & sister served in WWII. My brother & cousin – Vietnam. Me from the Cold War to Iraq & Afghanistan. Here’s what it is: It’s a Day where I honor & remember those who served before me. Who paved a path of sacrifice, honor, & integrity. A Day where I honor & applaud those serving now. I know, they know their commitment may mean giving their life. I was taught there is no greater love than to give your life for another. I am ALWAYS humbled & grateful that I am a tiny fractal of this immense family of brothers & sisters from all across America & its Territories who chose to serve our Country, regardless of the cost. I am ever so grateful for/to you, Russ, your instructors, TUSDM Cares for Veterans (previously known as Service with a Smile), & those who go the extra mile within your community to help Veterans. Your commitment & dedication restores more than dental health & smiles. It restores wholeness to a person. The eyes are said to be the window to the soul. I believe a smile is the invitation to meet that soul. Thank you for all you do & have done for me & my fellow Veterans.

Gerard Kugel, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Comprehensive Care: “For me Veterans Day is about giving back. For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of providing service to Veterans at my clinic. Given all our veterans have done for us, the least we can do is give them something in return. I get more out of treating my veterans than they get from me. Coming from a family of veterans dating back to the Civil War, it is one of the most rewarding things I do in dentistry.”

TuftsNOW article: More information about TUSDM Cares for Veterans https://now.tufts.edu/2022/03/10/bringing-dental care-within-reach-veterans (note: the program has changed its name since the article was published to TUSDM Cares for Veterans).