GSDM students expand global knowledge through international externship programs

What do a fresh-breath clinic in Japan, a department of yoga therapy in India, and biomaterials research in England have in common? The answer may surprise you—but it doesn’t surprise a group of worldly fourth-year DMD students at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM). Nineteen members of the DMD Class of 2020 embarked on exchange trips to England, China, South Korea, India, Japan, and Thailand during the Fall 2019 semester, where they learned that dental schools around the world come in many shapes and sizes (and some, affiliated with departments of yoga!)

The majority of the trips were part of the International Student Exchange Externship  Program (IEEP), which sends students to select dental schools around the world. Students are selected for the program, which is a for-credit elective course open to fourth-year DMD students, through a multi-step application process that involves a written application and in-person interview. International airfare for the program is covered thanks to the generous donors who support the DMD Annual Fund, which makes the program as accessible as possible for all students. The Office of Global and Population Health, under Dr. Michelle Henshaw’s leadership, manages the program.

The IEEP is a true exchange program: Students and faculty from each of the international dental schools visited by GSDM students also have visited Boston. The international dental schools in the IEEP program have all gone through a rigorous vetting process, which is overseen by Dr. Laisheng Chou, and have signed academic affiliation agreements with Boston University.

Trips last anywhere between two and three weeks, depending on the country and program. While each program is different, all participating students have the opportunity to tour dental schools, attend seminars, and observe clinical procedures; they also participate in cultural excursions, led by students from the host dental school.

Students then described their experiences in a series of presentations that took place on January 13 and 14, 2020, sharing photos and stories from their time abroad. Miguel Moreno, DMD 20, offered advice to students in the audience who are interested in participating in the future: “Come prepared to learn, change as a person—and eat!” he said.

Here are some highlights from the presentations:

  • Stephanie Brooks, Rebecca Gollub, Kerin Gustafson, Keenan Sandouk, and Dr. Matthew Zweig traveled to Tokyo, Japan, and Bangkok, Thailand, where they visited the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Dentistry (Thailand) and Tokyo Medical Dental University (Japan). In Thailand, students were able to join Chulalongkorn faculty and students at a local elementary school to do outreach, which they found similar to the outreach activities GSDM manages with Boston-area schools. “Even though [the activities] were in Thai, we were able to follow along and participate because they were so familiar,” said Brooks. In Tokyo, students were exposed to a lot of research and went on clinic rotations, including one at the aforementioned fresh-breath clinic, which focuses on the examination, diagnosis, treatment and counseling of patients with halitosis. Cultural activities included performing the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” dance, while representing the United States in a “culture show.”
  • Kent Shirai, Miranda Lee, Brian Levy, Laura Callan, and Dr. Michelle Henshaw went to the Seoul National University School of Dentistry (SNUSD) in Seoul, South Korea. They were the first group to travel to South Korea after Dean Hutter signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2019. Students had the opportunity to tour the school and dental museum, as well as the predoctoral treatment center and departments of prosthodontics, radiology, pediatrics, and anesthesiology at the Seoul National University Dental Hospital. They also spent time exploring the  Gyongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces  and the Myeongdong  and Insadong Markets in Seoul, as well as the city of Busan. The students commented on the differences between SNUSD and GSDM: At SNUSD, for example, only one crown is required before graduation.
  • Alex Fedorenko, Daniel Nayebi, and Joseph Somboonthum traveled to Manipal, India along with Dr. Devaki Sundararajan, where they spent time at Manipal College of Dental Sciences. In addition to touring departments that also exist at GSDM, they had the opportunity to check out the Department of Yoga and Ayurveda medicine, which is the oldest type of medicine in the world. According to the students, these departments are not competing with modern medicine; rather, they complement them. Outside of the classroom, Fedorenko, Nayebi and Somboonthum visited churches and temples, and they also traveled to the cities of New Delhi and Agra, where they saw the Taj Mahal.
  • Haley Harris, Miguel Moreno, Sierra Rubin, and Jessica Wang, along with Dr. Ronni Schnell, went to China, where they visited the Peking University School of Stomatology (Beijing), the Air Force Medical University (Xi’an) and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University College  of Stomatology (Shanghai). In Xi’an, students toured the largest dental museum in the world, and had the opportunity to observe patient rounds, an experience they had again in Shanghai. Cultural activities included exploring the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and Palace in Beijing and the terracotta warriors in Xi’an.
  • Ariana Dela Cruz, Izzy Fayerman, Christian Ford, and Walter Wang, accompanied by Dr. Marianne Jurasic, traveled to England, where they spent time at the University of Manchester. The students toured the clinics and research labs and learned about differences between dental education in the UK and in the US, as well as the ins and outs of the National Health Service. GSDM students also traveled to London, where they saw the London Eye, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace.

In addition to the exchange program presentations, attendees heard from the three students who traveled internationally and demonstrated their dentistry skills at the Skills Contest for International Dental Students, which was held in Shanghai, China. The trip, separate from the exchange program, was organized by Dr. Carl McManama. David Levy, Taylor Paek, and Tehani Monrazel (all DMD 20) traveled to Shanghai, China, with McManama, Dr. Laisheng Chou and Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, where they participated in a friendly competition alongside students from 13 other schools around the world. Students demonstrated their skills in CPR, endodontics, prosthodontics and oral surgery and participated in closing ceremonies. After the competition, the students explored Shanghai, visiting the university, the Jing’an Buddhist temple and participating in a tea ceremony at a tea house.