DMD AS students raise funds with charity polo match

Over a cup of coffee one winter evening in 2020, Mohammed Baseer Ahmed, Nitin Joshi and Ravneet Kaur found themselves discussing ways to give back to the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM). The three students, all of whom are members of the Doctor of Dental Medicine Advanced Standing (DMD AS) Class of 2022, wanted to contribute to the larger GSDM community and its patients.

“Almost all of us understand, have first or secondhand experience of what it is to not afford dental treatment, as dentists here and back home [in India],” Ahmed said. “In the United States there is good healthcare, but it is not spread across all sections of society. So, we started talking about what we could do.”

Ahmed, Joshi, and Kaur decided to start a nonprofit called United for Smiles and less than a year later organized a charity polo match, raising $10,000 for GSDM’s Harold E. Newman Jr. Patient Care Fund—a fund that helps to provide oral health care for uninsured older adult patients in the Greater Boston area.

Newman was a longtime employee of Boston University and GSDM—his service to the school included involvement in the original strategic planning process for the APEX program, the development of the BU Dental Health Plan, and consultation on countless projects involving clinical operations.

“He [Newman] served the college and the community for a long time,” Ahmed said. “Our objectives and values for what we are doing matched perfectly with what Mr. Newman was aiming for.”

The polo match, which took place Sunday, September 12 at the Boston Polo Club in Georgetown, Mass., was attended by 250 individuals. In addition to the polo match, there were refreshments and live music.

Associate Dean of Students Joseph Calabrese DMD 91 AEGD 92, who advised Ahmed, Joshi and Kaur as they planned the event, said that the match was different than other events that students have planned in the past.

“I was moved by how family-friendly the event was,” Calabrese said. “Not only was it a fun social gathering for our students—many were joined by their family members, enjoying the fresh air, some great food, a beverage all while petting the horses and high-fiving the players.”

Ahmed said the idea for a polo match came from the desire to host a self-sustainable fundraiser—an event where attendees can enjoy themselves that also raises money for a cause.

“In the beginning, we thought it would just be a one-off event,” Ahmed said. “But then we started thinking that this is something we can do annually.”

To minimize the cost of putting on the event, the three students handled most of the fundraiser’s preparation themselves, including cooking food for the event at home. Ahmed delegated tasks to the volunteers, Joshi arranged the teams and horses, and Kaur handled public relations, building a website, and bringing in sponsors.

“We tried [to do] everything because we wanted to do for a good cause—we didn’t want to waste money,” Ahmed said.

While Ahmed said that they were originally apprehensive about the weather, September 12 brought clear skies and warm temperatures. Members of the GSDM community arrived in colorful clothing to cheer on the two teams as they competed.

Polo is a sport played on horseback with teams of four, with the objective of scoring using a long-handled mallet to hit a small ball through a goal. Matches, which are generally one or two hours long, are split into periods called chukkas, during which each player changes the horse they are riding on.

During the mid-point of the game, spectators are invited onto the pitch for the divot-stomping, where they stamp on the holes made by the horses’ hooves.

“The best part,” Kaur said, of the divot-stomping.

“[Polo] is a beautiful thing when you watch it,” Joshi said. “It’s amazing—[to see the] adrenaline shooting inside the players and the crowd itself.”

While they were satisfied with this year’s event, Ahmed, Joshi, and Kaur are looking forward to making a larger impact next year.

“Dentistry might look like a regular profession, but it has a lot of potential in terms of relieving pain, of giving back [someone] their teeth,” Joshi said. “That is what we work toward, and that is what we want to work on through United for Smile in the long-term.”