Refugees find a warm welcome

in Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Health & Medicine, News Releases
October 2nd, 2007

Contact: Jackie Rubin, 617/638-4892 |

As difficult times ensue in their native countries, refugees from Burma, Sudan, and Somalia now have a safety net to ensure their health and well being in their new country. Her name is Shirley Austin.

This fall Austin, a native of Nigeria who received her green card in June 2006, will visit 12 families through a 2007 Schweitzer Fellowship, which awards students in the health fields for volunteer projects in underserved communities.

“When I got my green card I said, ‘You know what? Let me do something to help other people who are in a similar situation moving to a new country’,” Austin says.

A third-year dental student at Boston University, Austin will teach the families about dental health in their new environment, with a focus on preventive care.

“There is a greater intake of carbohydrates and sugars in this country and these families don’t know that it poses a risk to their health,” Austin says. “If they can get into the habit of going for checkups, they’ll prevent problems down the line.”

Austin plans to create an oral health brochure and video in the Somali and Burmese languages and organize an oral health fair for refugee families in the future. “Having information in their own language makes it personal,” Austin says. “It helps ease the process of moving to a new culture.”

Austin began her volunteer work with a Sudanese family in 2006, helping members with everything from homework, paying bills, and learning English. She has a wealth of experience volunteering at hospitals in Albany and while in college in Ithaca.

Austin will graduate Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine with a doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree in May 2009.

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