Philadelphia – Two Penn Dental Medicine students have been recognized for their work in preventive dentistry as 2019 recipients of ADEA/GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Preventive Dentistry Scholarships. Justin Escobar (D’19) and Alec Robin (D’19) were among 12 students nationwide selected to receive the scholarships, which support predoctoral dental students who have demonstrated academic excellence in preventive dentistry. The scholarship were presented at the 2019 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition, held in Chicago in March.
“We are very proud of Justin and Alec for the great work they have done in the community,” says Dr. Joan Gluch, Chief of the Division of Community Oral Health.
Justin, who is pursuing a Master of Public Heath along with his DMD, has been active in preventive dentistry projects throughout his time at Penn Dental Medicine. As a Bridging the Gaps intern after his first year, he explored the ways in which interdisciplinary care can be incorporated in health care for underserved communities, working at Public Citizens for Children and Youth, an advocacy organization for children, on a campaign advocating for undocumented children.
As a part of his public health capstone project, he worked on a project measuring the oral literacy of parents in the pediatric clinic. “We found the need to engage parents in conversation and better assess parent health literacy levels,” says Justin, “so preventive recommendations and activities can be better understood and interpreted.”
Among his other preventive dentistry projects, Justin worked with HIV patients at Philadelphia FIGHT dental clinic as part of a community oral health honors program and interned at the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. At the Institute, his project focused on examining consumer habits of low-income individuals in entering the oral health care system.
Alec has focused much of his preventive dentistry activities on programs that impact children. Throughout his four years, he has been active in the Give Kids a Smile program, which annually provides a day of free oral care to children in the community. As part of that program, Alec created a “Parents Corner” in the pediatric waiting room where a dental student could answer questions and give advice on how to continue proper care outside of the dental office and also created an educational flier that was put into every child’s goodie bag at the event.
Alec has also been an active volunteer in providing hands-on oral health education through a variety of programs, including at federally qualified health clinics, the Special Olympics, health fairs, and the Early Head Start Program. In addition, as a fourth-year student, he has increased his work with the School’s PennSmiles program, volunteering on the PennSmiles mobile bus to provide care and going to local schools to deliver oral hygiene instruction, sealants, prophylactic cleanings, and fluoride treatments.
“I am trying to learn as much as I can to see how I can incorporate preventive dentistry into my future pediatric dental practice,” says Alec. “I feel that I am getting a great understanding of what it entails to be able to help those who need it most.”
Both Alec and Justin will be entering pediatric dentistry postdoctoral programs after graduation; Alec will be attending Penn Dental Medicine and Justin will be going to Children’s Hospital Colorado.