Embracing all forms of Hispanic and Latin culture and cultivating an inclusive, accepting community is at the heart of the Case Western Reserve University Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) mission. Through events, education, community outreach and social gatherings, the organization is enhancing representation and increasing awareness.
HSDA engages the dental school by hosting events such as lunches with alumni and faculty members, educational sessions, seminars, trivia nights and salsa nights. With a prominent focus on community outreach, the group supports the Latin and Hispanic community in Cleveland through drives, donations and events.
HSDA also educates on the importance of knowing how to have simple conversations and communicate messages to those who don’t speak English, especially during patient visits.
“It’s unsettling for patients when their dentist doesn’t understand them at all,” said Miguel Ascencio, HSDA president and first-year dental student. “As a provider, being able to show you’re trying to communicate with them, that you’re trying to understand them even if you can’t communicate with them to a certain degree, can make a world of difference in the perception of the treatment they’re going to receive.”
Eduardo Julián (EJ) Santos, vice president of HSDA and second-year dental student, also shed light on the need for ongoing education, particularly relating to the health gap in dental care for the Latin and Hispanic community, in order to increase understanding and take action. He also reinforced the critical need for creating a space for conversations—encouraging his colleagues to reach out to HSDA for support.
“Approach us with anything you might need, or anything you may not understand about a specific culture,”
said Santos. “When it comes to a patient or colleague, we can help better explain or translate more directly and make that environment more welcoming and assuring for the provider to be able to treat the patient the way they want to so those barriers don’t seem as large.”
Moving forward, the organization is planning to partner with Guatemala Family Development on events, including a run/walk to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit’s efforts to improve lives of the indigenous Maya in rural Guatemala. HSDA will also be hosting a mask fundraiser to promote adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols and donate the proceeds to Guatemala Family Development.
Santos and Ascencio both reiterated that HSDA is open and welcome for all who are interested in learning more.
“It’s about inclusion of all cultures, within our culture,” said Santos. “We are all inclusive. We want to get to know everybody. We want to celebrate our own culture, with all types of cultures.”
HSDA is planning two upcoming events, including a speaker session with a former alumni on life after graduation and running a practice, as well as a Q&A event with upperclassmen focused on diversity awareness and their experience in the clinic.