Ms. Kulchar she participated in SHPEP in 2021 at UCLA. She is a junior at Princeton University majoring in Chemistry and minoring in both Global Health and Health Policy as well as Materials Science and; Engineering. She hopes to pursue a dual DMD/PhD degree after graduating.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
Unfortunately, many people see dental care as a luxury, not a necessity. Famous figures like Shirley Temple and former president Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) redefined oral aesthetics and beauty, through the appearance of a “perfect smile.” Temple’s infectious smile with perfect teeth was due to her getting veneers at a very young age, and it was reported that when she had lost a baby tooth and met with FDR, she refused to smile because her teeth were so entrenched in her identity, fame, and self-worth. Fast forward to today, in the age of beauty pageants, we see dental care being initially thought of as one to remedy malocclusions, or receive whitening treatments, as opposed to receiving preventative care. These sentiments have, unfortunately, led to dental treatment being seen as a luxury and have led to immense oral health inequities and a global epidemic of caries. I hope to be a part of the solution.
What are some of your recent milestones?
I’ve always had a passion for protecting the vulnerable. My family came to the United States while fleeing Iran during the Iranian Revolution, and I’ve heard of their trials regarding a lack of access to medical care and exposure to violence and poverty, all while not being able to earn a degree. Many of the women who raised me also escaped toxic and abusive relationships when they came to America. Refugees are an extremely vulnerable group who constantly face many similar struggles, albeit existing as a heterogeneous population. They deserve better, and I seek to be a part of this change.
I have been a dental and nutrition consultant for 2 refugee organizations. There was a family of 3, none of whom could speak fluent English, consisting of a father, a pregnant mother, and a toddler. Our main form of communication was through their native tongue Dari, which is
similar to Persian, allowing me to translate. The family had never seen a dentist, the mother often filled the child’s baby bottle with soda, and sugary foods were the default to subdue any behavioral issues. I began advising the family through tooth model kits, stressing the importance of preventative care as opposed to emergency retroactive action. Additionally, I spoke with the mother about how her health impacts the health of her soon-to-be-born child. To maximize the reach of these tips, I created an infographic to distribute to refugee families and various dental offices and clinics around the country.