Five dental hygiene grads receive the Student Changemaker Award

The graduates were honoured at a Board of Governors meeting for developing a community initiative to provide oral healthcare
Photo: Nathalia Lencioni
Lisa McLeod, Zeel Patel, Priya Renta Kumari and Sule Hamamcioglu waiting to speak about their community initiative Heart of the Matter on Feb. 26 at the Board of Governors meeting.

On the last semester of the dental hygiene program, five students donated their time and knowledge to developing an initiative helping people in their community receive quality oral healthcare for free.

On Feb. 26, the now-graduates attended a Board of Governors meeting in Room T102 to receive the Student Changemaker award for exceptional student efforts and to speak about their project.

“Our firm belief that everyone deserves quality dental care kept us motivated every step of the way,” said Sule Hamamcioglu, one of five recent graduates from the Algonquin College dental hygiene program who led a successful initiative called Heart of the Matter.

“I’m honoured to present our Equal Opportunity Dental Care Project to you,” said Hamamcioglu. “Right from the beginning, we knew it was our duty to focus on what our community needed. We worked hard for 13 weeks to plan everything carefully and gather what we needed to make this project happen. Today, we are proud of our achievements.”

The graduates are: Hamamcioglu, Priya Renta Kumari, Lisa McLeod, Zeel Patel and Tuli Chakma, who could not attend, but was represented by her peers through a photograph.

“This is Tuli. She wishes she could be here today,” said McLeod. “But she went home before we knew this was happening. She’s here in spirit.”

Heart of the Matter was created to bridge the gap in access to preventative oral health care in the community. They collaborated with their professors, 43 volunteers and Ottawa Public Health to provide treatment for 20 clients, delivering approximately $12,000 in services.

“Our volunteers played a critical role in making this event successful and possible,” said Patel. “Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible. Additionally, we engaged with the Ottawa Public Health to promote our event. Our professors, Scotia and Tonya, provided support and collaboration throughout the process.”

Their award was presented by Algonquin College president Claude Brulé and board chair James McCracken.

“Our target population included low-income adults who cannot afford private dental insurance or participate in many of the city’s dental programs,” said Renta Kumari. “Through this project, we welcomed individuals who lacked the services and provided them with complimentary care.”

The event has occurred six times since 2017 and will continue to happen yearly, according to the dental hygiene program. All of the recent graduates have already found employment since graduating in December.

“They have truly embodied the spirit of Algonquin College changemakers,” said Paula Benbow, chair of allied health from the School of Health Studies.

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