Published: Jul 31, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Jul 31, 2012 06:39 PM
Until she was 8, Alisha Huria lived in India. Going to the dentist was at the bottom of her familys list of concerns basic needs like food water, and clothing were the focus.
For many people, dental care that could have prevented dire medical emergencies was not always easily accessible.
Now Huria, a graduate of Green Hope High School, wants to provide dental care to people in underserved communities in North Carolina when she completes her degree at ECU School of Dental Medicine.
North Carolina ranks 47th out of 50 states in dentist-to-population ratio. That means cannot afford access to dental screenings.
ECU has pledged to cater to underserved communities across the state, which appealed to Huria. She is about to complete her first year as part of ECUs first class of dental students. Q:
If dentistry wasnt a priority when you were growing up in India, what made you consider it as a career? A:
People did say, Make sure you brush. But I was never taken to a dentist to have my teeth cleaned; there were no annual checkups. A lot of things changed when we moved to America, and dental insurance made those things possible.
I thought I wanted to go to medical school. I took an internship at Duke Medical Center in radiation oncology because I thought that was what I wanted to do. Im glad I did it, because I discovered that wasnt what I wanted to do.
I had braces pretty late in my teens; I got them when I was a senior in high school. So I started thinking about dentistry as a career. Q:
How does it feel to be part of ECUs first dental medicine class? A:
It was both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. It is like the first time with anything: new school, new equipment, great new faculty ... Overall, a great experience. Q:
How many years did you pledge to work in an underserved community? A:
There was no specific agreement. Most of us knew that ECU had a mission to make dental care accessible to those who dont have easy access. Most of us already knew that we wanted to work somewhere where there arent very many dentists. Q:
Is it true that North Carolina ranks near the bottom in the numbers of dentists to patients? A:
It is true that most counties in North Carolina have about one to two dentists each. Many dentists tend to seek work in the more populated areas, like the Triangle and Charlotte. Q:
By the time you enter your fourth year of dental school, you will start seeing patients, right? A:
Yes, ECU has 10 planned Community Service Learning Centers across the state, and we will do three nine-week rotations so we can experience what it is like to be in practice and be a health care provider. (So far, six learning center locations have been announced: Ahoskie, Elizabeth City, Lexington, Lillington, Spruce Pine and Sylva.) I am very excited about getting to see our own patients, the patients many dentists dont see, including patients with disabilities or other health care issues. Q:
You seem to have a passion for helping others. Do you volunteer? A:
Yes, I love volunteering my time. I volunteer at the North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinics (affiliated with the North Carolina Dental Society). As an undergrad, I was only allowed to help with clean-up or do a little assisting. But now, as we learn about each procedure, we are able to do more assisting and can help with X-rays. I am looking forward to being able to treat patients at these clinics in the future.