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Fruits of Summer – A Dental Hygiene Tale

January 24, 2011

Traverse City Wine CountryOh, it seems so long ago that the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the alarm clock didn’t scream as violently as it does now. Two weeks of those glorious summer days were spent up in Traverse City, MI for my class outreach project. For those of you who are familiar with outreach, you may be thinking “man what a loser… her favorite DH 4 moment was on outreach. She really doesn’t get out much”. Ah, you may have a point, but that outreach rocked! Well, if you’ve ever experienced wine touring or relaxing on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan, you know what I’m talking about! For my DH 4 outreach project, a fellow hygiene student Kathryn, and I drove (with the windows down and music blaring) through the picturesque hills, quaint lakeside villages, and lush orchards of the Traverse area.

If you can believe it, we were actually on a very serious mission. Our mission was to educate the migrant worker population in the Traverse City area on proper techniques of oral hygiene, nutrition, and the importance of oral health as it relates to systemic health. As we toured the beautiful wine country, we stopped at any migrant camp we came across, trying to reach as many people as we could. We knocked on each trailer door and introduced ourselves as dental hygiene students from the University of Michigan. On many occasions, the camps were vacant because they were out working in the orchards, and other times we were overwhelmed with households of ten or more children. Many families recognized us from the dental clinic we were working from, and warmed up to us very quickly. Some families invited us into their homes, so we could speak with their families about oral health. Our dental health education was actually recruiting patients to seek services offered at the clinic we were working from. During our travels, Kathryn and I reached out to 79 migrant participants.

 All in all, Kathryn and I had fun with our outreach project. We found fulfillment in providing dental treatment, and education to the migrant community as we enjoyed the fruits of summer.

Patricia Walsh is a 4th year Dental Hygiene student at University of Michigan School of Dentistry.  For more information about the migrant health care outreach, see For more information about the Dental Hygiene program, see

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