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Student Project Brings Care to Underserved Communities

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Written by Adam Zewe

Marla Yee, DDS '16, will spend the next year breaking down barriers that prevent Baltimore's most underserved residents from receiving oral health care. As a fellow in the Paul Ambrose Scholars Program, a component of the national Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, Yee will soon launch a public health project aimed at increasing oral cancer awareness.

The annual scholars program, which kicks-off at the end of June during a symposium in Washington, D.C., awards grants to 40 health sciences students from across the nation. The students use the funds to develop public health projects in their communities. Yee, who is pursuing a dual doctor of dental surgery/master of public health degree at the School of Dentistry and School of Medicine, feels strongly that she can make a difference through community-based care. "I think every dentist should have some public health awareness. If you understand the community where a patient lives, you are better able to assess the needs of that patient," she says.

For her project, Yee plans to organize oral cancer screenings in churches and community centers located in disadvantaged Baltimore neighborhoods. Oral cancer is a serious concern for the underserved and uninsured, since the disease is very difficult to treat if it is diagnosed late. By working in low-income communities, Yee will provide care for many people who lack transportation or struggle to afford treatment. She will focus on serving special needs populations within those communities. "I'm really looking forward to engaging the Baltimore community and meeting new people," remarks Yee. She sees the project as a strong starting point for her future career in public health dentistry.

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