LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 20, 2018) — In the Appalachian region of Kentucky you'll find rolling hills, small towns and communities ready to offer southern hospitality and a warm welcome. Unfortunately, the region is also home to some of the worst health disparities in the nation. Due to low educational attainment, limited access to health care providers and high rates of poverty the ability to maintain and improve health is out of the reach for many. That is one of the reasons Brandi Hall, a graduate student from Morehead, Kentucky, plans to return to the region to provide dental care.
When Hall came to UK in 2013, she knew she wanted to work in a health field and that she wanted to be of service to the people of her home state. Originally, she planned to attend pharmacy school but, after seeing a video of a root canal being performed, she decided to shadow the dentist at the office where her mother works as a dental hygienist, from then on, she knew she wanted to go to dental school.
Hall will complete her Master of Medical Science, a program in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, in May 2019 and has already submitted applications for dental school. This summer, she spent two days volunteering with Remote Area Medical, an organization the provides free dental, medical, vision and mental health services to underserved populations. Hall served in the dental clinic assisting providers, observing procedures and learning about the needs of a population she'll one day serve. For Hall, this was an eye-opening experience that illustrated the severity of the problem in eastern Kentucky, she said "It's easy to talk about, but it's really different when you see people coming in and needing to have all of their teeth extracted."
This experience, and the fact that she herself is from Appalachia, motivate much of the work Hall does, in school and in her free time. A research project Hall is currently involved with will evaluate perceptions of oral health among eastern Kentucky residents. It's through this project that Hall sees an opportunity to do a lot of good. By seeing assessing what people know, or don't know, about the connection between oral and full-body healthy better education can be provided to patients, Hall said "We can help educate people that there's a connection between oral health and full-body health; hopefully we can help people take initiative when it comes to their oral health."
Hall plans to utilize the Health Professions Scholarship Program through the United States Army for her dental education and, after completing school, she will then serve four years as an Army dentist. When her service is done, Hall will return to Appalachia to do what she's always wanted to do, give back to her community, "I knew I wanted to be in a field where people in Kentucky truly needed my help; Kentucky means everything to me."
For many, summer is a time to slow down, get a break from school and maybe take a vacation. At the University of Kentucky, summer is when our faculty, staff, clinicians and students prepare for a new school year, conduct research, treat patients and gain experience through internships and service work. Class may not be in session, but at UK we never slow down