In 2014, five dental hygiene students enrolled in Mount Ida College’s dental hygiene degree program, became the first dental hygienists to travel abroad to Quito, Ecuador, located on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, to provide preventive dental expertise. Mount Ida partnered with Child Family Health International to offer a study abroad program providing rich and diverse experience for these dental hygiene students, allowing them to improve their cultural competency, broaden their dental public health knowledge, and allow them to interact with dental health professionals in a variety of health care settings. Their journey is featured in an International Educator magazine article on the benefits of U.S. dental programs embracing international education experiences.
Jacyn Stultz, Department Chair of dental hygiene at Mount Ida, accompanied students Nicole Cantello, Jennifer Arias, Jessica Fogg, Yesenia Santos and Julie Carlson on the week-long trip to Ecuador. A valuable learning experience, the trip presented students with a language barrier and a completely different environment than they are used to in the United States. With the help of dental professionals, they provided cleanings, restorations and examinations for more than 450 patients in one week ranging from infants, preschool, children, teenage mothers, adults and elders. Students also introduced “Preventive Dental Hygiene” to patients with little or no knowledge of oral health.
While in Ecuador, students immersed themselves in Ecuadorian culture through cuisine, Spanish language classes and learning local customs through living with an Ecuadorian family for the duration of their stay. They also visited low income community health centers and local hospitals. On their last day in Ecuador, our students had the opportunity to educate and examine 300 public school children from ages three to six. Dressed as the tooth fairy, one Mount Ida dental hygiene student delivered toothbrushes and toothpaste to the children and all of the children received a hands-on tooth brushing lesson in Spanish. Many of these children have never owned their own toothbrush and if they did, they had to share it with family.
“It was an experience of a life time,” “humbling,” “transformational,” “the best experience I ever had,” and “grateful,” were just a few of the student’s comments after returning home to Mount Ida.
“This opportunity positively impacted our lives and the lives of others. We hope to reach out and touch many other people as they have so profoundly touched ours,” the group concluded.
For more information about international travel programs at Mount Ida, please visit our Center for Global Connection’s webpage.