Local dental hygiene student raising money for trip to Ecuador – Seymour Tribune

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Each year for the past 17 years, a group of about 10 Indiana University School of Dentistry students and faculty members has provided free dental services to communities and highland areas in Ecuador.

The focus of the Global Service Learning program is on clinic work and empowering patients and villagers through oral health education, plus students have the opportunity to work alongside in-country professionals.

In the process, they gain teamwork skills, know how to provide long-term care for patients and can make decisions regarding treatment approaches. Plus, they get a deeper understanding of the culture.

When the next group travels to Cayambe, Ecuador, from March 10 to 19, 2023, a Seymour native will be among the students from the Indianapolis school.

Jared Hirtzel, 33, is one of two dental hygiene students going along with nine dental students and three faculty members.

Anyone interested in going has to fill out an application and have it approved. Hirtzel said the COVID-19 pandemic affected the program in recent years, as the group stayed in the United States last year and went to a Native American reservation in South Dakota. In 2023, the Ecuador trip is returning along with Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, South Dakota and Texas.

Hirtzel said he applied a few weeks ago.

“I like to diversify what I’m involved in there at the school, ” he said. “I’m involved in different organizations there, so this is an opportunity to diversify my portfolio there at the school, but also, I kind of weighed whether I was going to apply to it or not because there is a cost that we’re responsible for. I didn’t want to regret not taking the opportunity because it’s an opportunity for us as students to understand another culture and the disparities that they may face. ”

In Ecuador, people who live in the village areas don’t have a lot of access to care, so Hirtzel stated he was really interested in getting the cultural experience and being able to help the people out.

He was excited to receive an email letting him know he was approved for the program. Now, he’s focused on fundraising and has a GoFundMe page set up online at gofund. me/adec3725. His goal is to raise $2, 500.

“I would just really appreciate it if people in the community would help support me in this, ” Hirtzel said. “It’s akin to like a mission trip, just for service instead. It’s a good cause. Especially around the holidays, you want to do good things, and so maybe this is something that people can help. ”

Hirtzel is a 2007 graduate of Seymour High School. He spent eight years running his own dog grooming business, Dapper Dog, in Seymour.

He then decided to switch careers and worked as a dental assistant for a while, and he took prerequisites over the course of a few years before being accepted into the IU dental hygiene program in August 2021.

“I always had really positive experiences at the dentist as a kid, so it’s just something that I felt interested in just because I would like to have the opportunity to give other people those experiences, ” he said. “I know it’s not always a positive experience for people when they go to the dentist. ”

Hirtzel plans to complete the dental hygiene program in December 2023. He will be able to earn his bachelor’s degree that quickly because he has taken classes year-round. That’s a mix of classwork plus clinic.

“I see like three or four patients a week right now, ” this individual said. “It is a completely functioning dental school presently there. There’s dental hygiene, oral surgery, periodontics. It’s literally everything. ”

The trip to Ecuador will give him a new perspective on his future career.

“The doctor who is the head over the program, I’ve spoken with him briefly, and he said basically to expect the particular worst cases that you’ve ever seen, way worse than anything that you’re going to see there at the school, ” Hirtzel said.

Makeshift clinics will be set up in churches and schools to provide cleanings and education, and if needed, restorative work and extractions for people in the underserved communities. Translators is going to be available because the people right now there either speak Spanish or Kichwa.

Hirtzel hopes to gain an understanding associated with some of the troubles that the people are going through.

“I think there are a lot of times that will care isn’t prioritized in some other countries, so then they come here and they are still not receiving care because they don’t know that they need to go get regular checkups or even whatever or there’s the language barrier and they are not accessing care, ” he or she said. “Sometimes, it gets to the point where you might see a young person, and their teeth are all basically falling out simply because of lack of access. ”

Between this trip and his involvements in college, Hirtzel expects it all to help him as he works toward a career as a dental hygienist.

He is treasurer of the dental cleanliness Class of 2023. That program only takes 20 people per year.

He also is president of the school’s chapter of the Student American Dental Hygienists Association. That organization went away from IU for a while but was brought back this year, he said.

“We’re doing a few different things, like I just started a card drive at the school where we’re accepting holiday cards and we’re going to disperse those in order to nursing home residents for the holidays, ” Hirtzel mentioned.

“Then we are also going to be putting together in-service learning where we’re going to go into long-term care facilities and teach employees about oral care so that hopefully, they can make sure that they are taking care of their own oral health, but then also, they are taking care of the residents that they care for each day, ” he said.

Hirtzel also is a hygiene liaison for the American Dental Education Association.

“In that role, I serve as communication between the dental programs and our hygiene program setting up educational things within the school for students, ” he said. “We recently did the dental day where college students who are interested in a career in dentistry came in and we had activities for them to do. ”

Once he graduates, Hirtzel said their plan is to split time between working clinically for a private practice and teaching at IU.

The bachelor’s degree will offer him an opportunity to teach in the school, but he stated he may look at obtaining a master’s degree in adult schooling so he can teach certain portions of the program.

“I’ve had some really good professors, and there’s a hygienist shortage nationwide, so even there on the school, we’re even kind of short on faculty, ” he said. “I just feel like if I can fulfill a need to give other students, future hygienists, a great experience also, then I’ll do it. ”

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