SCC Dental Hygiene students will practice in Bolivia next summer

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Next summer, Shoreline Community College Dental Hygiene students and other dental hygiene students across Washington and Oregon will have the opportunity to put their skills to work in Bolivia, South America helping young, homeless Bolivian women learn skills that will help them leave the world of poverty.

Photo courtesy Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene School

Students enrolled in the new 2011 study abroad program, “Oral Health Training in Bolivia:  Increasing the Opportunity for Young Women Living in Poverty,” will work in the Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene School in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the first and only dental hygiene training facility and clinic in Bolivia.  The South American students will learn basic dental hygienist skills.  Smiles Forever is a local non-profit organization that provides education to homeless, indigenous women in Bolivia to become dental hygienists. 

Rosie Bellert, Shoreline’s Dental Hygiene program Interim Director and instructor, says that the program offers students not only the opportunity to study and work abroad, but the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to work right away.

“The students will work one-on-one with the Bolivian students, teaching them all they learned in their first year of the program,” Bellert said, “and all the while they will be helping them leave the poverty they have known and move into the world of work as dental hygienists.” Students will earn three credits via Special Topic:  Dental Hygiene 292. 

Students enrolled in the Shoreline program will attend a lecture one day a week and work in the clinic four days a week.  They will also visit community schools and shelters to teach basic dental care and to talk about the value of eating a nutritious diet leading to healthy oral hygiene. 

“This program allows us to not only help these young women by providing an education, but to help fight the immense oral hygiene problems that Bolivians live with,” Bellert said.

Bellert, who several years ago met Sandy Kemper, the woman behind Smiles Forever, went to Cochabamba, Bolivia last summer to volunteer. By the end of her stay, she had decided that she wanted to provide the same kind of experience for the students in the SCC Dental Hygiene Program.

“If I can make a difference as just one person, I thought, why not bring students down to help,” she said. 

Members of the IPAC (International Programs Advisory Committee) seemed to agree with Bellert on the significance of this program, selecting it for the Summer Institute award.  Pollie McCloskey, International Programs says that five applications were submitted this year.

Kemper says that the Smiles Forever program is the first dental hygiene program accepted by the Bolivian government and Dental Society.  She hopes to have 28 graduates by the end of the school year.   

--SCC Blog


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