Dental Hygiene, Outreach, Students

Yoo Wins First Place for Outstanding Achievement in Community Dentistry

Jaehee Yoo, dental hygiene candidate 2015, won first place for the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) Dental Hygiene Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Dentistry. This award nationally recognizes Yoo for her project “Prevention through Education,” which focuses on improving the dental health of immigrant and refugee children in the communities surrounding UNC.

Yoo’s “Prevention through Education” program offers dental health services to the refugee and immigrant families at Oak Creek Village in Durham, N.C. She partnered with a group from the UNC School of Medicine to also offer education about the importance of oral health and its impact on systemic health. The program focuses on oral care early in life to prevent early childhood caries, or decay, in young children.

“Prevention through Education was a result of both inter- and intra-professional collaboration among the students and faculty from UNC Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Duke Medicine,” explained Yoo. “Multiple churches and local organizations – like the Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the YMCA and the Oral Health Section – came together to make this project a reality. By working together, we made an impact and improved the oral health of immigrants and refugees, one of the most vulnerable populations in our Triangle community. It was so wonderful to serve and love our neighbors in this way – and to be rewarded. I am so thankful for this opportunity to travel and present on this great community work to other dental health professionals from all over the United States. What a privilege!”

As a recipient, Yoo will receive a cash award of $500 and an additional $100 to help offset travel costs to the 2015 National Oral Health Conference (NOHC), a joint meeting of the AAPHD and the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD), taking place this year in Kansas City, Missouri. She will present her poster about the project during the NOHC general poster session. AAPHD will recognize Yoo on Monday, April 27 during the AAPHD Special Merit and Student Awards Presentation at NOHC.

During the project, Yoo has been mentored by Dr. Sally Mauriello, professor in the Department of Dental Ecology, and Ms. Shannon Mitchell, interim director of the Undergraduate Dental Hygiene Program.

“Jaehee has been an outstanding dental hygiene student both academically and clinically, as well as through her commitment to community service,” said Mauriello. “She possesses a special talent to network with the many different stakeholders that were involved to organize and implement the community project for refugees and immigrants. Jaehee will be an asset to the dental profession.”

Mitchell echoed many of Mauriello’s comments.

“From the inception of this project Jaehee would come by my office almost weekly to fill me on a new aspect of the project or about another group that would be helping with ‘Prevention through Education,’” said Mitchell. “Jaehee has a wonderful way of bringing students and faculty together to offer important services provided during her project. Jeahee makes the UNC dental and dental hygiene programs very proud to be able to provide this kind of leadership for this type community service. She will also make us proud when she presents the project at the 2015 NOHC in Kansas City.”