For the tenth year running, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) volunteers participated in Boston’s Annual Countdown to Kindergarten Citywide Kindergarten Celebration. This year, the celebration took place on August 27, 2013 at the Boston Children’s Museum.
Countdown to Kindergarten Boston is a non-profit collaborative that offers resources and events throughout the year to celebrate and support the transition into kindergarten, a significant educational and developmental milestone for children and their families. The Citywide Celebration is part of Countdown’s Step 2 “Get Ready for School.”
At the event, enthusiastic children and families toured the museum exhibits, climbed aboard real school buses, had last minute school questions answered, received information about health and community resources, and had the opportunity to meet Mayor Thomas Menino and Superintendent of Boston Schools Dr. Carol R. Johnson.
The 29 GSDM volunteers promoted oral health to the children and families, provided dental screenings, and offered hands-on interactive activities. The School’s participation was organized by GSDM chapter members of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) in collaboration with Community Health Programs. Neelam Shah DMD 14 and Ingy Alhelawe DMD 15, the community outreach co-chairs for ASDA, contributed significantly to organizing GSDM’s participation in the event. Oral Health Promotion Director Kathy Lituri, Director of School-based Programs Dr. Corinna Culler, and Clinical Instructors Ana Keohane and Martin Ugarte-Chavez worked alongside the students.
Kathy Lituri said, “This is by far one of my favorite events. It provides such a great opportunity to interact with young children and their caregivers at a very important juncture in their lives, when they are ready to start school!” She continued, “It’s a perfect time to emphasize the importance of a healthy mouth and how a healthy mouth is so vital to a child’s ability to learn and grow. It is also a favorite event among many GSDM students and often inspires them to consider a post-graduate program in pediatric dentistry.”
Neelam Shah said, “This is my third year attending Countdown to Kindergarten and it’s such a great event! We were able to screen over 120 soon-to-be kindergarteners and their siblings. We love coming back every year to teach them and their parents about maintaining good oral hygiene and making cute tooth necklaces with them.”
Said Ingy Alhelawe, “Countdown to Kindergarten is so much fun. I loved seeing all the kids eager to get their teeth checked. Who knew a sticker can make a child so happy? It’s a great way to teach the children proper dental home care and emphasize the importance of taking care of their teeth. I’m looking forward to next year’s event as well.”
James Lee DMD 14 was there for the sixth year in a row representing BU, having begun as a pre-dental undergraduate, attending then as a Graduate Medical Sciences student, and finally as a GSDM student. Kathy Lituri reports that James’ help and expertise is critical.
Lee said, “Countdown to Kindergarten continues to be my favorite outreach event because it provides an opportunity to serve the larger Boston community outside our treatment center through oral health promotion to pre-kindergarten children and their families.”
The decay-fighting hero Captain Cavity Fighter, played by Andrea Lam DMD 16, made a repeat showing at the event. Making her first public appearance alongside Captain Cavity Fighter was Lieutenant Fluoride, played by Shelly Curtis DMD 16. The duo greeted children with smiles and dental health promoting stickers and also posed for pictures with them.
Thank you to the student volunteers: Ingy Alhelawe DMD 15, Eman Alsagob DPH 16, Ahmed A Alsulaiman DPH 16, Ella Botchevar DMD 14, Julian Camastra DMD 15, Shelby Curtis DMD 16, Zeilig David DMD 14, Ingrao Destinee DMD 15, Jessica Finkielszstein DMD 16, Sammy Gill DMD 14, Marina Gonchar DMD 14, Dr. Rohit Gupte (GSDM post-doc research fellow 2010–13), Delphine Jeong DMD 15, Camestra Julien DMD 15, Courtney Knapik DMD 16, Andrea Lam DMD 16, Dave Lane DMD 16, Lana Le DMD 16, James Lee DMD 14, Brian Leibtog DMD 15, Linda Linsinbigler DMD 15, Matt Mara DMD 16, Mike Mayr DMD 16, Neelam Shah DMD 14, and Kali Stewart DMD 15.
Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter said, “The Annual Countdown to Kindergarten Citywide Kindergarten Celebration is an important event for Boston families and, as such, is also important to the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. I am extremely proud of the School’s continuing participation in this citywide event.” He continued, “Thank you to the coordinators and numerous volunteers, including Kathy Lituri and American Student Dental Association members who once again made our participation a success.”