Student Spotlight: Ana-Gabriela Benghiac DMD AS 22 recognized for volunteer hours
When Ana-Gabriela Benghiac DMD AS 22 thinks about why she’s drawn to giving back to her community, a quote from English writer John Bunyan comes to mind.
“[He] said, you have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” Benghiac said.
Benghiac has taken the quote to heart, volunteering for a wide variety of organizations—and now, she’s being recognized for her hard work. She was recently awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Bronze Award from Boston Cares for completing 137 service hours over the course of a year.
Boston Cares is the largest volunteer agency in New England. Their year-round programs and seasonal service events engage thousands of adults, children, teens, and corporate partners who volunteer at almost 200 schools and nonprofits, primarily in Greater Boston and eastern Massachusetts communities.
Each year, the organization recognizes outstanding volunteers who have served their communities through the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Boston Cares Service Champions Award. There are three levels of awards for adults; Benghiac received the Bronze Award and was recognized during a virtual ceremony on April 6, 2021.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were fewer in-person opportunities to volunteer. However, the opportunity to write letters and cards for individuals staying in Boston-area institutions caught Benghiac’s attention.
“I studied foreign languages and literature and in the past I used to participate in literature contests and won awards for poetry,” Benghiac said. “From there, I have the passion for writing.”
Benghiac wrote more than 500 cards, delivering many of them herself. When she delivered a package of letters to a center for patients with Multiple Sclerosis, she said that she was touched by how moved the recipients were.
“I think this [card writing] is important, particularly now, during the pandemic, when there’s not a lot of interaction,” Benghiac said. “When it’s handwritten, it’s a way of creating connection, showing care, and, in a way—giving a part of yourself, because it’s your handwriting.”
Benghiac has a long record of community service, dating back to her time in her home country of Romania. After receiving her master’s degree in bioethics from Case Western Reserve University, she volunteered on a committee for research ethics at a regional oncology institute, and also provided dental–based community service, including oral health education.
“I think it’s important to give back to the community because not everyone is as fortunate in life,” she said.
Since Benghiac arrived in the United States in 2019, she has volunteered for events held through Boston Cares, the Massachusetts Dental Society, and the Hispanic Dental Mission, including Yankee Dental Congress and Christmas in the City, as well as at Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in the South End. At GSDM, she has donated funds toward Haley House and the Hispanic Student Dental Association and said that she is looking forward to volunteering in person once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
As if that’s not enough, Benghiac is also mentoring other Romanian dentists who would like to pursue dentistry in the United States.
“I created a community with other Romanians to support each other,” Benghiac said. “Some donate student materials, some do tutoring for free; we give opinions on CVs and personal statements. I’m very appreciative of the people who helped me reach my goals, and I want to do the same for people who come here.”
Last year, Benghiac received a scholarship from the Massachusetts Dental Society for the 2020 First District Leadership Academy, and she was also recently featured on BU Today after being inducted into Alpha Alpha Alpha, BU’s honor society for first-generation college students. She said hopes to someday give back further by working in academia.
“I think it’s important if you get a good education like we get at BU… to share it with others,” she said.