Dental Hygiene Students Enrich Lower Mainland ELSA Class

Students from the UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program might spend a lot of time in class learning their profession, but with community-based outreach initiatives, class time takes on a whole new character.

Dental Hygiene Students EnrichIn March 2011, dental hygiene students visited English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) classes offered by the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC). The UBC students enriched the student experience for those in the ELSA program with a lesson in dental hygiene.

This year marked the first time that dental hygiene students worked in New Westminster —at two sites—and in a Level 1 English language classroom. In previous years, they have worked with Levels 1 to 5 in Vancouver-based classrooms.

Sayena Faraji, Maria Huellas, Ambreen Khan, Hyo Jeong Kim, Julie Kwan, Nagyung Lee, Ashley Lessard, Monica Park, Alysha Sunderji and Dana Yu were all second-year dental hygiene students at the time. They were divided into three teams, and each team taught three one-and-a-half-hour sessions over a span of six weeks.

Diana Lin, clinical assistant professor and program supervisor for UBC’s Dental Hygiene Degree Program, summarizes the objectives of the initiative: to address the unmet oral health needs of vulnerable populations by delivering culturally appropriate oral health promotion/education and clinical services; to foster social responsibility and awareness; and to increase student exposure to various communities and interprofessional relationships.

Theresa Howell, an ELSA instructor, sat in on the classes.

Dental Hygiene Students Enrich“I saw how committed and adaptable this program is to the needs of ISSofBC and the ELSA students. It was interesting to see how much energy and effort the students put into their lesson planning and delivery.”

Howell appreciates how programs like this benefit all involved, and she sees it as great bridge-building between agencies that care about their students and the settlement of new immigrants.

Many new immigrants to Canada come from countries where, like medical care, dental hygiene and dentistry services may be out of reach for the average population. Personal knowledge about dental hygiene may also be scant. Howell notes that, after the six weeks, many of the ELSA students were more enlightened about dental hygiene and more aware of programs in community-based dental care available to them. Says Howell, “It was amazing to witness how naturally partnerships such as these can improve the lives of so many.”

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