Nandini Sharma

Dr. Myron Allukian, President of the American Association of Community Dental Programs, Boston, Massachusetts

The spring of my junior year I remember making a detailed and extensive list of all the possible organizations and individuals I would want to work with over the summer. In the field of dental public health there are few dental public health summer internship positions, let alone paid positions. During the application process of the Wellman Hill Grant I received an e-mail from Dr. Myron Allukian informing me that his office would be interested in having me this summer; however, it would be an unpaid position. From past experience I knew that living in Boston would be extremely expensive. However, the Wellman Hill Grant made possible my most meaningful summer experience yet.

Dr. Myron Allukian is one of the early champions of dental public health in the country. He was the dental director for the city of Boston for 34 years, the second dentist to be the president of the American Public Health Association and the current president of the American Association of Community Dental Programs.

I came to Boston with the objective to learn about dental public health. Although I was relatively knowledgeable about national oral health policies and health center models before coming to Boston, I could not have the insights I have today without my experience this summer. I spent a majority of my time learning about community water fluoridation. Before coming to Boston I was knowledgeable about the benefits of community water fluoridation and did have a strong basic understanding of the positive aspects of such a program. However, little did I realize what an extremely controversial topic community water fluoridation is.

I was first exposed to this controversy by reading the various articles that Dr. Allukian had given me. Then using the information I had learned, I was asked to conduct a small study to learn about the knowledge of average individuals in Boston and the greater Boston area about community water fluoridation. In my questionnaire, I approached individuals near the location of my office, Government Center, to take my questionnaire. Surprisingly the majority of the individuals I approached were very receptive towards me. The questionnaire was mainly designed to ask individuals about their knowledge and opinion of community water fluoridation. (The results of the study have yet to be compiled.) Lastly, I researched information and created a packet about a community in Massachusetts that is debating on fluoridating their water system. This project helped me learn the tricky process of fluoridating a community. The packet I created detailing information about water fluoridation in this town was distributed at the meeting Dr. Allukian attended to fluoridate the town.

This summer I had the opportunity to interact with the Massachusetts Department of Health. By sitting in on the meetings of the Oral Health Task Force Steering Committee I was able to witness programming and legislative change in its infancy. Watching the group of individuals from various organizations, coming together at the Steering Committee meetings, I was able to observe the intricacies of government/private group dynamics.

Another aspect of my summer was interacting with the Advanced Education in General Residency residents of the Lutheran Medical residency program. I attended meetings involving the new residents and attending bi-monthly Video Teleconference (VTC) for all the AEGD residents in the United States. During my time there I helped two of the foreign-trained AEGD residents with their final public health studies. This experience gave me an idea of how to write a research paper and conduct a study. But more importantly, this opportunity allowed me to interact with the residents closely and learn about what brought them to where they are today. In the future I can see myself flourishing in this specific program.

This summer I had the opportunity to meet individuals in the oral health field, learn more about current status of oral health, become further educated on the issues relating to oral health, and finally learn lessons about a career in public health. From fluoridation to tobacco cessation efforts I was able to learn about the various facets of oral health. That said, I know that I have barely scratched the surface. Perhaps the most significant part of my experience here in Boston was my interaction with the different individuals that I was fortunate enough to encounter.