Students past and present honored at dental hygiene luncheon
Current and former students of the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene celebrated their rich history at a luncheon April 21. The event was held in honor of the class of 1973, commemorating its 50th anniversary and featured a pinning ceremony for the class of 2023.
“This year’s theme is ‘Rooted in Tradition with a Mission to Serve,’” said DH2 Berenice Sanchez Lemus. “We selected this theme because it captures what is so wonderful about our profession. … We all began with the Caruth School and a heart of service to the school and the profession.”
During the luncheon, alumni pinned the class of 2023, signifying the end of their clinical training and entrance into clinical practice.
Guest speaker Susan Rountree Schlessinger, class of 1979, spoke of her time at Caruth fondly and said she was incredibly grateful for the foundation it gave her to pursue a career in dental hygiene. In fact, it was that foundation that led her across the globe in 1986 to bring the profession of dental hygiene to Switzerland. While there, she met her husband, started a family and traveled the world.
“It was a marvelous experience, and I had the opportunity to practice dental hygiene in five countries and four languages,” she said. “No matter the language, the skills and education learned at Caruth opened many doors. … Ultimately, as individual practitioners, we carry our own standard of care, but as a whole, we represent something far greater.
“It is my desire for all hygienists to understand the value of our profession and enjoy their careers as much as I have.”
Another guest speaker was DH2 Shimirimana “Shim” Eliya who shared a portion of his life story and why he pursued a career in dental hygiene.
Eliya was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania. He recalled waking up early one day, walking several hours to see a dentist and waiting in line for several more hours before being turned away when the clinics ran out of supplies.
“Although I was sent home, I was never upset because I had hope that they would return, and I could just wait another year,” he said.
Eliya moved to America when he was about 9 or 10 years old, he said, and at last received dental care. However, the clinic he visited only filled his teeth and never bothered to educate him about the importance of a dental care routine.. The “knowledge gap” between dental providers and patients at a clinic in an underprivileged American neighborhood was, sadly, very similar to his experience in Africa, he said.
“I was wondering if this only happened to me, why it was happening to me and how I could prevent it,” Eliya said. “That is why I’m here, because I believe that prevention is key, and knowledge is indisputable.”
Last summer, Eliya had the opportunity to return to Africa. He went to Zambia to help in a dental clinic, no longer as someone waiting in line to seek dental care, but to provide it.
“I’m grateful to Professor Wyatt and the dental hygiene faculty and staff for making this dream a reality and equipping me with the tools and skills necessary to become a great hygienist,” he said. “This program has allowed me to finally achieve my dream of working in public health and traveling abroad to further expand oral health.”