November 2021 Volume LVI Number 6

 
 
 
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Resident's Corner

November 2021 Volume LVI Number 6

My National Health Service Corps Journey
by Naheed Ahmad
 
Early on in my education, I decided that working in public health was a professional goal of mine. One big vehicle that allowed me to do so was the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship. The scholarship helped me significantly financially and let me work in a community clinic where I felt like my work was making a difference.
 
The National Health Service Corp Scholarship and Loan Repay- ment programs are great for an individual who wants to pursue a career in public health dentistry. If you receive the scholarship in dental school, the NHSC will cover your tuition and fees in exchange for a service of a set amount of years at an approved site. The only post graduate programs the NHSC allows to be completed before the service requirement are a pediatrics resi- dency, dental public health program, a geriatric fellowship and a general practice residency/advanced education in general dentistry.
 
After completing a pediatric dental residency, there is still an opportunity to take advantage of the programs that the NHSC offers as both a pediatric dentist and a general dentist. There is a loan repayment program that will provide up to $50,000 of loan repayment for your first two years, up to an additional $40,000 the following two years and $10,000 for every year beyond that. You will receive the loan repayment in addition to the salary that is provided by your health center. It is possible to have all of your loans repaid with this program.
 
My journey with the National Health Service Corp started out as a second year dental resident, when I received the schol- arship. When I graduated, I started my career working as a general dentist at a FQHC, Community Health Systems in Beloit, WI. I was really proud of the service our clinic was able to offer to our patients – molar endodontics, removable prosthetics, crowns and esthetic services. I felt that my coworkers, clinic and myself were truly making a difference in the lives of our patients.
 
While working there, I observed the need for dental care for these patients and the community. Our appointments would be scheduled out three months in advance due to the lack of dental providers in the area. A big barrier to care that was pres- ent at the clinic was education about oral health. A large por- tion of my job was educating families and individuals in help- ing them be aware of prevention and care of their oral health. The most rewarding moments at my clinic were recall appoint- ments where families have completely transformed their oral health. On the flip side, some of the hardest parts of my job was seeing the unmet needs of my patients. Most of my young patients had a high caries risk and a large amount needed full mouth rehabs at the ages of four or five. Our patients that were referred to pediatric dentists waited up to eight months before being seen for a consultation. Within that time span, they made many trips to the ER for pain, swelling and abscesses. This dire need for pediatric dentists in public health was one of the rea- sons that I wanted to pursue specialty education in the field.
 
For those of you who have the goal of working in public health, I highly encourage you to look at the National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment program. You can search for potential opportunities at the NHSC Health Workforce Connector (https:// connector.hrsa.gov/connector/). There is a world of difference ready to be made.
 
Naheed Ahmad is a second year dental resident at the NYU Langone-Southern California site. She feels lucky to be in a field that she loves and is excited to be a pediatric dentist soon.