When UNC second-year dental student Shenan Bradshaw first traveled to Nepal in summer 2009, she couldn’t have imagined that she would return just one year later – and with a School of Dentistry team she had organized.
That’s just what will happen, however, in a matter of months. The UNC School of Dentistry Nepal Project team will leave in mid-July for Kathmandu and travel to several regions of the country before returning to the United States in mid-August. In partnership with the Health and Development Society Nepal, the four-student team and faculty advisers will sponsor several dental clinics, distribute oral health supplies and tour private and public health-care facilities.
Their travels will take them, and their guide, through mountainous and rural countryside; included is a 13-day trek by foot to Mount Everest Base Camp. The team will distribute oral health supplies and provide health education along the way.
The project team includes Bradshaw, second-year dental student Anna Shope and first-year dental students Kevin Tsui and David Sullivan. Dr. Frazier Keck, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry, is the faculty adviser, and Dr. Andre Ritter, associate professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry, will join the effort when the team returns to Kathmandu for another clinic.
Bradshaw recently received the 2010 UNC Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship Award for her efforts in organizing the Nepal Project. This award, the first University-recognized student-run scholarship, is presented to students who demonstrate leadership, passion and the ability to inspire others to make a difference in this world, said Aravind Chandra, fellowship co-chair. Selected students are also chosen based on their ability to effectively plan a service project that will directly influence the community in which they plan to work.
“Shenan’s dedication to her project was made very clear to the committee, and they recognized her passion and drive to succeed,” said Chandra. “Moreover, she embodied all of the qualities that the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship looks for, including those mentioned above. Her past experience, intense planning and confidence she expressed in her project made her an ideal candidate for our fellowship. Finally, on behalf of the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship, I would like to say that we are very pleased to help fund this trip that Shenan has taken the time to plan and we wish her the best as she carries out her project.”
All of this began back in 2009, when fellow dental student Alice Ma learned of a health education outreach effort in Nepal and held an informational meeting, which Bradshaw attended. Both joined the effort, flew to Nepal and spent their time assisting with community clinic efforts and learning about the country. “I got to see a lot of Nepal,” Bradshaw said. “I thought there was an amazing amount of need.”
When she returned, Bradshaw began to think seriously about forming her own effort that would focus on dental outreach in Nepal. She spoke with Dr. Rick Mumford, director of the UNC dental school’s Dentistry in Service to Communities Program, and Dr. Ronald Strauss, the University’s executive associate provost, among others, who helped her make connections to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through the CDC, she was introduced to the government-sanctioned Health and Development Society Nepal.
Bradshaw held her own informational meeting for the Nepal Project, and 10 students applied. And soon afterward, a project Bradshaw thought would take two years to fully form had a team and a Nepalese partner organization – by the end of 2009. Her efforts were further rewarded when she received the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship Award in late March 2010.
“Since her first year in dental school, Shenan Bradshaw has impressed me with her genuine desire to serve others who may be caught up in tough circumstances of life,” Mumford said. “Shenan specifically sought out the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship Award because she knew it would be a great fit for her community service in Nepal.”