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April 23, 2013

Blinn Dental Hygienists Bound for Africa

Students provide dental health at home and abroad

Amy Foust When Blinn College – Bryan campus Dental Hygiene students graduate, they leave with more than just qualifications.  They leave with a motivation to serve others.

More than a dozen students will be recognized at the May 4 Dental Hygiene Pinning Ceremony, acknowledging their readiness to apply their skills locally, and even around the world.

Graduating student Amy Foust will make a return trip to Africa when she travels to Bulembu, Swaziland on June 1, along with five other Blinn dental hygienists to perform oral health clinics and assist native Africans with techniques for dental care. The students will pay for the trip using funds raised independently.

“We’ll be providing services such as sealants and fillings for children who wouldn’t receive care otherwise,” Foust said. “And as we provide this care, we’ll be teaching local caregivers how to remember the steps we use so that they may provide the same care after we return home.”

Foust said the idea to travel to Africa was first presented to her during involvement with her home church, and after traveling to Kenya once, she is eager to go back to Africa a second time.

“The main reason for going is simply to help others and getting to work with such unique children,” Foust said. “And the best part is being able to practice what we’ve learned in our time at Blinn.”

Dana Wood, dental hygiene instructor, said that aside from high quality training, these acts of service set Blinn’s Dental Hygiene Program apart from others.

“Our students offer a value of service to the community and to the world,” Wood said. “Aside from Africa, other groups have gone to Guatemala and various countries.

Wood said students will take Fluoride and a variety of education programs to Africa, along with 500 toothbrushes provided by the Brazos Valley Dental Hygiene Society.

Kristy Swanson, who began her journey in dental care by working in a kids’ dental office, will travel to Swaziland following graduation.

“I’ve always wanted to help kids,” Swanson said. “This trip will be a perfect opportunity to help kids while applying what I’ve learned at Blinn.  The program has taught me so much, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Marque Mathis, dental hygiene professor, acknowledged that program completion is not an easy task.

“Students pour their hearts and souls into this program,” Mathis said. “They spend so much time on their work, but in the end, they become lifelong friends who are better prepared for the field.”

Blinn’s Dental Hygiene Program focuses on the recognition, treatment and prevention of oral diseases. Since 2008, students have partnered with the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile project to provide more than $82,000 in free preventative dental care to the underserved children of the Brazos Valley.