Convocation Spotlight - Eleanor Lekash, '21 DDS

Convocation Spotlight - Eleanor Lekash, '21 DDS

Tarwinder Rai - 25 June 2021

Eleanor Lekach’s dedication and commitment to Student Health Initiative for the Needs of Edmonton (SHINE) clinic is commendable. At first, unsure what the clinic would entail, quickly turned into a four-year passion for Lekach. And now, as she graduates from the dental program, providing care to vulnerable populations is at the forefront of her dental career.

How did you get interested in volunteering at SHINE?
I remember my first SHINE shift, it was in October of my first year I was an admin with Kelsey Won and Sama Banaei. I ended up volunteering through the encouragement of some of the upper year students, I wanted to see what it was all about.  For my first shift I remember being in the old basement clinic working in sterilization. Some might say that is where I developed my passion for IPC!

Why is SHINE vital to the health of our communities?
The SHINE Dental Clinic is a place for students and dentists to network and give back to their community, for hygienists and dentists to collaborate on patient cases, and for people in vulnerable situations to seek important oral health care in a judgement free environment. It’s a fun place to work and get hands-on experience in a private practice setting.  

I also think SHINE is important because it is a student-run initiative that empowers students to provide a service to the community independent of their already jam-packed dental curriculum. The time and effort the U of A students have dedicated to the clinic over the last decade has built a legacy that the students continue to emulate as they provide important services to the community for decades to come

Tell us about your involvement with SHINE.
Over the last 3 years I have had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the SHINE executive committee – whether as communications director, junior co-chair and now, senior co-chair. These positions have been my most rewarding experience in dental school. This past year at SHINE has been a very challenging and equally rewarding experience. The hundreds of patients we’ve served over the past nine months have been exceptional. They are understanding and cooperative and we were so honoured and appreciative to have the opportunity to provide safe and free dental care to those in need. Working at the SHINE Dental Clinic has been an incredible experience and one I will continue to cherish as I begin my career as a dentist. 

What are your plans after graduation?
I am pursuing a residency position in a Canadian GPR program. After my residency I would like to focus on treating vulnerable patients in the pediatric and geriatric patient population. 

What advice do you have for future graduates or students coming into the program?
If you want to have the full dental school experience, go to the party, join the sports team, volunteer at the event, try planning something!  You’ll learn a lot of valuable life skills and it will make all the school stuff more bearable. 

Is there a patient you treated and will never forget?
One of the patients I treated over the last year had avoided the dentist for +20 years because of severe dental anxiety. When he came to the clinic I could see that he had grown his mustache past his lower lip in order to hide his teeth. You couldn’t see his mouth at all when talked or smiled. As I was restoring his teeth I noticed his mustache was getting shorter, and at one of his last appointments his mustache was almost completely trimmed off. It was amazing watching him take charge of his oral health and it was the first time I realized the power of a confident smile.