UK student, aspiring dentist gains experience through service
The Appalachian region of Kentucky is home to some of the worst health disparities in the nation. Due to low educational attainment, limited access to healthcare providers and high rates of poverty, the ability to maintain and improve health is out-of-reach for many.
That is one of the reasons Brandi Hall, a graduate student from Morehead, Ky., plans to return to the region to provide dental care.
When Hall came to UK in 2013, she knew that she wanted to work in a health field and that she wanted to serve the people of her home state. Originally, she planned to attend pharmacy school, but after seeing a video of a root canal being performed, she decided to shadow the dentist at the office where her mother works as a dental hygienist. From then on, she knew she wanted to go to dental school.
Treating underserved populations
This summer, she spent two days volunteering with Remote Area Medical, an organization that provides free dental, medical, vision and mental health services to underserved populations. Hall served in the dental clinic by assisting providers, observing procedures and learning about the needs of a population she’ll one day serve.
For Hall, this was an eye-opening experience that illustrated the severity of the problem in Eastern Kentucky. “It’s easy to talk about, but it’s really different when you see people coming in and needing to have all of their teeth extracted,” she said.
This experience, and the fact that she herself is from Appalachia, motivates much of the work Hall does – in school and in her free time.
Hall is currently involved in a research project that will evaluate perceptions of oral health among Eastern Kentucky residents. Hall sees an opportunity to do a lot of good through this project. By assessing what people know, or don’t know, about the connection between oral and full-body health, better education can be provided to patients.
“We can help educate people that there’s a connection between oral health and full-body health; hopefully we can help people take initiative when it comes to their oral health,” she said.
Hall plans to use the Health Professions Scholarship Program through the United States Army for her dental education, and, after completing school, she will then serve four years as an Army dentist. When her service is done, Hall will return to Appalachia to do what she’s always wanted to do: give back to her community.
“I knew I wanted to be in a field where people in Kentucky truly needed my help; Kentucky means everything to me,” Hall said.
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