David Paul


When David Paul, D89, and a small group of students arrived in Nicaragua in April, it marked the return of Tufts dental to that country for the first time since 2012. It was also the twenty-second time Paul had volunteered on or led an overseas service trip, where participants and overseas partners built clinics and treated patients. After volunteering in Haiti and Honduras some twenty years ago, Paul realized there was also keen interest in service trips among students, particularly because of the dental school’s diverse makeup. He scouted the school’s first trip to Nicaragua in 2005, for instance, with a pediatric resident, Mina Blandon, D03, DG07, who left Nicaragua as a child. Paul said the biggest challenge of service trips is communicating the necessity of U.S.-style infection control in a culturally appropriate manner—Communidad Connect, the nonprofit hosting the most recent Nicaragua trip, purchased the site’s first autoclave—and they also take considerable coordination, from filing mountains of paperwork to transporting several hundred pounds of equipment. “What has kept me going,” Paul said, “is that I can look back at more than fifteen years of bringing students and everyone always says that this is the best thing they ever did.”


Victor Fong


Three years ago, Victor Fong, D95, found himself practicing somewhere he never expected—at One Community Health in Sacramento, California, a clinic providing dental and medical care for people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s a choice, he said, that some of his friends and colleagues find hard to understand. Despite significant advances in treatment and outcomes, HIV/AIDS still carries a stigma, and even among health-care professionals, there remain misunderstandings about infection control. While HIV can manifest through oral infections or lesions, there are many patients, Fong said, who have good oral health, and require little more than fillings or crowns. But access to care remains an issue, whether because of cost—Fong estimates one in five of his patients is homeless—or because other providers have shied away from taking on their cases, saying they are too complicated. “The response [from patients] is that everything kind of stops when [providers] see the medical-history notation about being HIV positive,” Fong said. The American Dental Association recommends that all dental practices should be able to provide routine dental care for HIV-positive adults or children, but Fong thinks more training and continuing education are still needed. “I went into dentistry to help other people,” he said. “When you meet a patient face-to-face in the chair, they’re not the person you saw on the street. They’re just a person who needs help.”


Zachary and Benjamin Golub


Zachary Golub, D20, grew up with parents who were dentists. But it wasn’t until he picked up a puppet in a makeshift dental clinic in Guatemala and started telling kids in Spanish how to take care of their teeth, his father said, that he realized he wanted to be a dentist, too. Bringing care to children who need it throughout the world—in Jamaica, South Africa, Cambodia, Mongolia, Cape Verde, and Haiti—is a passion for Zachary’s parents, Jon Golub, A81, D85, DG87, and Jamie Diament-Golub, D87, and an essential part of how they practice their profession. And while the Golub siblings—Zachary (at left in photo), his twin, Benjamin, D20 (at right), and their older brother, Michael, D18, DG20—helped in their parents’ offices and were exposed to a lot of dentistry around the house, it was going along on volunteer trips that “set the light bulb off,” Jon Golub said. “What caught their attention is that we can make a difference.” In January, the whole family—along with more than a dozen Tufts students and faculty—spent five days treating children and adults in some of the most isolated areas of Jamaica, alongside the nonprofit Healthcare International. Wherever they travel, Diament-Golub said, the reaction from experienced dentists is the same as that of the dental students: “This is as good as you told me it was going to be.”


Nicholas Gordon


Nicholas Gordon, D12, MPH14, fell in love with Haiti on a service trip with the Tufts Hispanic Dental Association and Associate Professor Aidee Herman in 2013, beguiled by the country’s beauty, culture, and its singular history as the product of a successful nineteenth-century slave revolt. Growing up, his father, also a dentist, and his mother, an educator, inspired him to pursue service, and as the first graduate of Tufts’ dual DMD/MPH program, he also brought a professional passion. “There is a lot of opportunity to not only address the oral-health needs in Haiti, but to do it from a public-health standpoint, focusing more on prevention and education, and less on treatment,” he said. Since that 2013 trip, Gordon—who now works at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston and is completing a pediatric dental residency at Boston University—has become involved with the National Dental Association’s drive to promote oral health in Haiti. He led a trip last year with the Tufts chapter of the Student National Dental Association, bringing together dental students from Tufts and the University of Haiti to provide care in rural areas. A similar cooperative trip is planned for August. “One of the things about global service learning at Tufts is when we go to a developing country, we’re not going there as charity. We are going there in solidarity,” Gordon said. “We are hoping to work with the people in the community.”

Helene Ragovin

Helene Ragovin, senior writer at Tufts and editor of Tufts Dental Medicine, can be reached at helene.ragovin@tufts.edu.