This week we are featuring short profiles of some of the members of the inaugural class of dental and medical students inducted into the Honos Civicus society.

Emily Joseph, D13Emily Joseph, D13, put active citizenship at the core of her dental education.  As a member of Tufts Smile Squad, she did outreach and education to children, helping to make visits to the dentist less frightening.  Working with the non-profit Bridge Over Troubled Waters, she provided care to homeless adults and teens.  During a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, run by the Hispanic Dental Society and the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, Joseph brought her skills to underserved communities in the developing world.

Of all her experiences, Joseph cites her Community Service Learning Externship at the Winslow Indian Health Center in Arizona as having had the biggest impact, both on her education and development as a dentist, and on the people she served.

“Most of our patients came from the Navajo reservation,” said Joseph.  “It was a diverse population in terms of disease.  Studying oral pathology in a school in the city, where there are so many providers, you tend to see very few cases.  But in a place where access to care is a real challenge, the variety is much greater – I saw one hundred and fifty very different patients in the time I was there.”

“Before the externship, I don’t think I’d fully realized how much cultural and spiritual beliefs affect health and education,” she continued.  “For example, it’s difficult to discuss the possibility of mortality with anyone, but many of the patients at Winslow would interpret saying that something carried a risk of death as though the speaker were wishing death upon them.  It was much more important to talk about the benefits that could result, and explain things as fully as possible.”

Joseph sees service as essential to her work.

“It can feel like another drop in the ocean, but that’s a drop that wasn’t there before,” she said.  “We’re all a part of the same world, and doing something that might seem very small can make a huge difference in a person’s life.”