The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSCH) Dental Branch Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) is comprised of 49 dental and dental hygiene students. The faculty advisors of the UTHSCH HSDA are Margo Y. Melchor, RDH, M.Ed., and Sergio Ortegon, D.D.S. The association was revitalized in 2000 under the faculty supervision of Ms. Melchor and has held an active student chapter membership since that time.
Ms. Melchor singles out several highlights of the past year. "Our student association was the host school for the national Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) annual meeting on October 22-24 at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel," she said. "This was an opportunity for its professional and student members to get together for continuing education and networking opportunities who are passionate about HDA's mission to optimize the oral health of the Hispanic community."
UTHSCH HSDA members provide preventive care, nutritional counseling, and patient education once a month at the San Jose Clinic in downtown Houston. Several members also participate in the "Nuestra Familia, Nuestra Salud Health Fair," providing information to 300 parents and children about oral health care, caries prevention, and nutritional counseling. During the Houston Hispanic Forum Career and Education Day, members mentored and advised middle and high school students about pursuing careers in dentistry or dental hygiene. There were over 20,000 students in attendance at this annual event.
"Our student association participated with national members of the Hispanic Dental Association at the Hispanic Dental Association/HEB Stores-Colgate Oral Health Month Project," said Melchor. Students conducted oral screenings to children and passed along information to parents regarding their children's oral health. Houston was one of five U.S. cities selected for this event.
At the Lyon's Community Health Clinic, UTHSCH HSDA students provided preventive treatment to over 150 children. And at the "Mayor's New Year, New You Challenge Wellness Fair," they conducted comprehensive oral hygiene instruction and oral screenings for patrons of all ages. Referrals were given for low-income/sliding-scale clinics in the area.
The UTHSCH HSDA's biggest highlight? "It is with great pride that our student association won the first Procter and Gamble 'Orgullo' - pride - sponsored community service award," says Melchor. The association placed second in 2002 and third in 2008.
The UTHSCH HSDA hasn't stopped to rest on its laurels, however. With great excitement, Ms. Melchor spoke of future plans. "We will visit the Friendswood Healthcare Center nursing home in January 2010, where members will provide oral screenings and give comprehensive care and patient instructions to the staff nurses and aides," she said. "We'll also be participating in the annual Houston Hispanic Forum Career and Education Day, where a dental and a dental hygiene student will serve as panelists, along with the faculty advisors. There will also be an exhibitor booth where the student members will take shifts on providing advice about a profession in dentistry or dental hygiene."
Students will work with the Denver Harbor Family Clinic in providing preventive measures for its patients and participate in career days at area schools. "Our chapter is also establishing an 'Ambassador Program' under the Hispanic Center of Excellence Grant," says Melchor. "This program allows student members to mentor and recruit at their 'home' high schools and colleges."
Ms. Melchor loves working as the UTHSCH HSDA's advisor. She initially got involved when asked by a Hispanic student. "Since I am of Hispanic descent, I researched this young organization and was very intrigued by its uniqueness," she recalls. "They espouse teamwork within the association. I also admire the way they value the worth of its student members because they know they are the future of the association."
Feedback from the local community has been tremendous. "Every project we've undertaken has been of great value to the city of Houston," Melchor says. "With such a large Hispanic population, this is a very simple way we can start reaching out to the community." Melchor notes that the first student president of the chapter helped her initiate the establishment of the Greater Houston Hispanic Dental Association in 2000. "We became the first local professional chapter in Texas and the fourth in the nation."
So what does the future hold for Ms. Melchor and the UTHSCH HSDA? "I hope to see the student members staying active upon graduation with professional membership of the national Hispanic Dental Association," she comments. "The dental student I mentioned who asked me to be faculty advisor is now a Trustee for the HDA. In addition, there is also a dental hygiene student who graduated several years ago and has served as a Trustee. Another dental hygiene graduate this year was elected to our Board of Trustees. So as you can see, this organization has inspired graduates to follow the mission of HDA and stay in the forefront by establishing national leadership roles."
Former student members aren't the only HDA Trustees to be elected from UTHSCH. "I am also proud to say that I also got involved by serving on HDA committees (Scholarship, Membership, and Governance) and was then elected as a Trustee," says Melchor. "Two years ago, I was elected into the Executive Board and am getting ready to hold the role of President-Elect. My goal as an advisor is to serve as a good role model for our student membership by observing my participation and desire to be a key aspect of this great association."
The 2009-10 officers of the UTHSCH HSDA are:
Mr. Carlos F. Carrion, President
Mr. Iven Gonzalez, Vice President
Ms. Yudith Rodriguez, Vice President
Ms. Vickie Martinez, Secretary
Ms. Veronica Perez, Historian
Ms. Montsy Rodriguez, Social Co-Chair
Mr. Sergio E. Lopez, Social Co-Chair
For more information on the UTHSCH HSDA, please contact Ms. Melchor at Margo.Y.Melchor@uth.tmc.eduor Dr. Ortegon at Sergio.Ortegon@uth.tmc.edu.