GSDM student recognized for community service, awarded scholarship

Laura Daza DMD 20 grew up in Colombia in a family that emphasized the importance of giving back. Her uncle and aunt were both missionaries, and her parents taught her to be grateful for what they had and to have empathy for others.

“We were very aware that there are people with real needs, and since we’re blessed to have resources, skills, and abilities, we should help others,” Daza said.

Her commitment to community service ultimately led her to dentistry, as she wanted a career that would allow her to help people, and then to the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM), which Daza chose in part because of the school’s own commitment to community service.

It is no surprise, then, that Daza came to mind when Dr. Michelle Henshaw, Dr. Ana Zea, and Ms. Kathy Lituri, all of the Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research, were identifying whom to nominate for a 2018 Dental Trade Alliance Foundation scholarship. This scholarship recognizes students with an established commitment to community service and have demonstrated academic excellence. Each U.S. dental school can submit a single nominee, and in 2018, Daza was one of just 34 recipients of the scholarship.

“Laura exemplifies all of the qualities that the foundation intends to promote with this scholarship. Laura’s work ethic and academic excellence are outstanding. Her leadership and commitment to community service have placed her as a role model to her peers through her participation in all activities with the BU chapter of the Hispanic Student Dental Association,” said Dr. Zea, clinical assistant professor of General Dentistry, clinical assistant professor of Health Policy & Health Services Research, and director of community-based education.

Daza has demonstrated this commitment time and again over her first two years at GSDM. In her first year, for example, she learned about the need for more training for dentists on how to treat patients with disabilities. This prompted her to work with Colombia’s Instituto de Capacitacion Los Alamos, a residential and day program for people with intellectual, cognitive, medical, and physical disabilities, as part of the Applied Professional Experience program. In her second year, Daza took on the role of outreach chair for the Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA), which involves identifying outreach opportunities and helping to recruit volunteers for community events. Daza continues to play a leadership role within the HSDA, and is currently serving as its vice president.

“Community service is important to me because, as oral health professionals, we have an ethical responsibility to treat each person with as much respect as we want for ourselves,” Daza wrote in her scholarship application. “When we recognize the obstacles people can face in accessing dental care and learn to be sensitive to their needs, then we bring dignity and quality of life, not only to ourselves but to those around us.”

Daza’s passion made her an excellent candidate for the DTA Foundation Award, according to Lituri, clinical instructor in the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research and oral health promotion director.

“[Laura] has a genuine interest in the oral health needs of underserved populations and her volunteer efforts have enabled her to gain insight into the social, medical and/or environmental issues they face as well,” Lituri said.