U of A dentistry students raise $42,500 for local charity

Tarwinder Rai - 27 January 2015

School of Dentistry students have raised $42,500 for Dentistry For All.

This is the fifth year the Dental Students Association (DSA) has been raising money for organizations like Dentistry For All and Kindness in Action - both non-profit volunteer organizations that provide free dental care in areas around the world for those who have limited, to no access, to dental care.

The annual Winter Charity Ball organized by members of the DSA is a major fundraising initiative for these missions. In 2013, the students raised over $33,000 for Kindness in Action, and in 2012 they raised $35,000 for the charity Dentistry For All. The DSA alternates between supporting the two charities each year. This year 285 people attended the event - more than any other year.

For third year dental students Jameel Popatia and Muhamed Jomha going on the missions is an opportunity to gain real-life experience they wouldn't be exposed to otherwise.

The duo was in Tacloban, Philippines over the winter holidays as part of the Kindness in Action mission. The area was left devastated after the tragic 2013 typhoon. Seeing nearly 700 patients during their 6-day mission, Popatia says it was the most humbling experience he's ever had.

"As soon as we got there hundreds of people started lining up," he said. "You could tell that these people are the ones that needed dental care the most and they truly appreciated that we were there."

While students are responsible for their own airfare, donations are used to help pay for items like supplies and equipment.

"Going there will change the way you practice dentistry," says Jomha. "The volume and the type of cases you saw there you wouldn't see here."

This year 15 third and fourth year dental students from the School are expected to participate in dental missions in January and February. And using professional skills to give back to a global community is important to learn says dentist and Dentistry for All representatives Trudy and Blaine AuCoin.

"It's not only about dentistry," says Blaine. "The funds raised are used to help build a community. There are large populations at home and abroad who find dental care is out of reach for them. This is one way we're able to use the skills we have and give back."

The Dentistry for All charity was started in 1995 by the School's former faculty member and 1978 doctor of dental surgery graduate Denis Bedard and his wife Bev. The charity serves 16 different locations around the world, and each year over 20,000 people are treated and close to 60,000 procedures are done.

Kindness in Action was started in 1993 by a 1990 doctor of dental surgery graduate Amil Shapka, who also completes dental missions around the world.