Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Serving through volunteerism and advocacy

Posted by Jeremy Jordan on February 20, 2015

“Dental students are like snowflakes—each one is different,” Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry’s Senior Associate Dean for Student Services, Dr. Michael Healy, once said. “In fact, if you ask a room full of one hundred dental students ‘why dentistry?’ you’re almost certain to get one hundred answers.” 

I grew up in rural southwestern Virginia. As I became aware of my community’s extreme need for proper dental care, the decision to pursue dentistry became clear. I initially decided to pursue dentistry as a junior in high school. Dentistry seemed like the perfect balance between science and art, and would give me the opportunity to mix my interests and serve others. After volunteering and shadowing I found that dentistry was a perfect fit. 

Dentistry is a continually evolving profession. Oral health disparities continue to grow, and each year a number of barriers to care prevent thousands from receiving the treatment they need. In the summer of 2010 I attended my first Mission of Mercy Project (MOM Project) in Wise, VA, just a 15-minute drive from my hometown. The Wise County MOM Project was the first of its kind, and aimed to address the great need for access to dental care in the area. Since its inception in 2000, the MOM Project has provided more than $35 million in free care to more than 55,000 patients across Virginia. 

The hours were long and the weather was hot, but I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the patients who, even after standing in line for hours, were so grateful for the services provided and the volunteers that gave their time. As a predental student, I assisted by taking notes for dentists in dental triage and escorting patients. Even though I felt like my contribution wasn’t terribly meaningful, the patients continued to thank me and give me hugs. That weekend will forever hold a special place in my heart—it was difficult to realize the magnitude of the need in my own community; however, it’s also that weekend that helped solidify my decision to pursue dentistry and return to southwest Virginia to practice. 

When I started dental school in 2011 I found my niche in organized dentistry. Over the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about health policy, the barriers to care and how advocacy can make positive change in our profession. Our patients rely on us to provide quality care and to improve their oral health. In turn, we rely on advocacy efforts to keep the profession strong and protect our own interests. What’s often overlooked is that our responsibility extends to advocating on behalf of our patients. As the face of dentistry continues to change, we work diligently to ensure our patients’ rights are protected, their needs are met, and to keep the profession strong.  

Now it’s 2015, and in a few months I’ll graduate from dental school. It’s hard for me to believe that dental school is almost over, and that I’ll soon enter the profession as a practicing dentist. It’s with this realization that I feel the responsibility to continue to serve. What I didn’t realize in 2011 is that serving my patients will continue to extend beyond the dental chair. You see, my experience has taught me that my patients deserve both my skillset and my time. Sure—my patients deserve the absolute best care that I can provide, but they also deserve a dentist who makes an impact on their community by volunteering, and a dentist who advocates on their behalf. 

Whether you’re a predental student, a practicing dentist, or somewhere in between, I encourage you to engage in the profession. Volunteer your time, your skills, and use the opportunity you’ve been given to make a difference. One of my favorite sentiments is the notion that whether you like it or not, becoming a dentist makes you a leader. If we all take advantage of the opportunity we’re given as dentists, we can continue to impact our communities and strengthen our profession. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.”

About Jeremy Jordan:

Jeremy Jordan

Jeremy Jordan
Dental Student, Class of 2015
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry

Jeremy Jordan graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in Biology and a minor in music from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He is a fourth-year dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, and currently serves as American Student Dental Association’s (ASDA’s) District 4 Trustee. After graduation, he will attend a two year GPR at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.