2018 Scholarship Winner

Essay

Elise B.

Last spring I pursued an opportunity to help translate Spanish for a US doctor on his mission trip to Honduras. As translator, my role was to ease the distress of hysterical pediatric patients terrified of having their decayed teeth pulled. I drew upon memories of books I had read when I was younger, retelling stories of lions and princesses. When they were called to the dentist chair, I reminded them to be brave like the hero from the story. This trip was meant to be an opportunity to shadow a dentist and improve my Spanish. But my experience also inspired a desire to create change so kids wouldn’t keep losing their teeth to decay, so every child could eat a healthy diet and be proud of their smile. In this moment, I found my passion for dental hygiene. Combining my curiosity for dentistry, my interest in Honduran culture, and my passion for telling stories, I wrote and designed a children’s book called “Sonrisas Bonitas”—Beautiful Smiles—to teach oral care. To test the effectiveness of my book as an educational tool, I raised money and visited Honduras for eight days and made a presentation to every school in the Opatoro Sur region; 450 children received a toothbrush, crayons, and a copy of my book. My research trip taught me that I could merge my passions for medicine and education. As I pursue a Language and International Health degree from Clemson, I will continue studying and creating an impact beyond myself. South Carolina is home to an underserved Hispanic population. Given good health, they are a tremendous economic resource to our state. Language should never be a barrier to healthcare, and my Spanish book is one tool that can be easily adapted to teach Hispanic students how to take care of their teeth here in state elementary schools. I plan to learn how to recognize need in our local communities and take an entrepreneurial approach to develop innovative solutions for pressing healthcare challenges through my college coursework. I will learn how to empower communities to take charge of their own health and utilize technology involved in telemedicine. My prior research is merely the beginning as I plan to study the Spanish language and international healthcare practices. I will then take all the knowledge I’ve gathered from my international experience observing how society and medicine simultaneously impact healthcare, and I will apply this learning on a more local scale so everyone in our state can have “sonrisas bonitas”.