Not all health care is administered by physicians. Not all dental care is received in a reclining white chair. And when it comes to coverage, the U.S. does not always lead the way.
Rather, dental care — like health care — is a global issue, and this year, three Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) students got a chance to take that lesson both to heart and into the field.
“Some of the most prevalent diseases in the world are oral diseases,” with cavities affecting an estimated 4 billion people worldwide — far more common than cancer, diabetes, and even heart disease, said Brittany Seymour, assistant professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at the HSDM. “At the same time, they are the most neglected.”
Seymour’s “Principles of Oral Health” teaches second-year students about global health and disease. This year, her class had a unique opportunity to take concepts learned in the schoolroom and apply them in the field.
Over spring break, Kristin Sweeney, Ryan Lisann, and David Danesh traveled with Seymour to southern Costa Rica, where they were immersed in a one-week extension course co-developed by Seymour and Carlos Faerron of the Interamerican Center for Global Health (CISG). The class gives students a firsthand look at some of the most pressing challenges in global health, such as the effects of environmental degradation, migrations and changing demographics, and nutritional and epidemiological transitions.
“It’s one thing to learn about topics in the class and be far removed from them, but it’s a totally different thing to have space to dive in and learn about these things for a week, where they are happening,” Sweeney said.