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The Student National Dental Association (SNDA) chapter at UAB has a proud history of award-winning service.

(L-R) Nia Taylor (D3), Jenai Bostic (D2), and Kianna Bloomfield (D2).So when the pandemic struck, they didn’t let it slow them down. They just altered their strategy and kept moving forward.

Chapter president Nia Taylor, a third year dental student, explains, “Since we couldn’t participate in the traditional in-person events this year due to COVID-19, we found creative ways to support our campus and the Greater Birmingham communities and to give to those in need. We had to be resourceful but so far, we have been able to translate some of our activities to virtual or alternative formats this year.”

One of those events, the group’s annual Wax and Relax supports first year dental students. Before the students are graded on their first diagnostic wax-ups of dental bridges in the Preclinical Dentistry (PCD) course, SNDA shares waxing tips and tricks in a comfortable, interactive format. Making the event virtual this year, Taylor shared that they continued the tradition of inviting prosthodontics residents to demonstrate how to wax up a tooth. She explained, “Instead of having the students with us in the PCD Lab, we streamed the demo on Zoom. Students were able to call out questions to the residents during the demonstration and we had SNDA members available to answer questions that were typed into the chat.”

Wax and Relax event.In addition, SNDA traditionally hosts educational forums to prepare members for a future in dentistry. In previous years, these have included in-person lunch-and-learn events featuring speakers such as representatives from financial advisory firms. This year, the chapter co-hosted a virtual meeting with UAB Student Research Group to provide dental students more information about the National Dental Practice Based Research Network and how they can get involved while in dental school and once they become practicing dentists.

The chapter also serves the Greater Birmingham community. Last year, they traveled to the YWCA to give a fun and interactive presentation on dental health and hygiene to elementary-aged children. The group also promoted oral health through Operation Help and Hope, a large-scale event for the underserved that includes a job fair, grooming for men and women, and a variety of health screenings. Since many participants lack access to dental care, SNDA offered oral cancer screenings, as well as information and referrals for affordable care.

This year, chapter members volunteered with the Community Kitchens of Birmingham, an organization that offers lunch to the hungry 365 days per year. Two or three volunteers worked at a time to pack meals into to-go boxes, social distancing and wearing masks. By helping at two locations and on two different dates, several members were able to participate in the activity.

"Blessing bags" ready for distribution. In addition, the chapter assembled “blessing bags” for clients of The Arc of Central Alabama, an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each bag contained dental and personal hygiene items – a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, a bar of soap, tissues, and a pair of gloves – along with an encouraging note. “We provided these bags in an effort to reach out to a different population in need. Our goal was to let them know that we care for them while promoting their dental hygiene, as well,” said Taylor.

While most events could be converted to a virtual format, the group’s G.R.A.C.E. Thanksgiving Luncheon had to be hosted in person. The luncheon is held annually to show appreciation for the school’s environmental services staff. Members hosted it safely this year by converting it from a sit-down meal to a catered boxed lunch, while adhering to UAB’s social distancing and masking guidelines.

“In a year where keeping and honoring traditions has been difficult, our environmental staff was pleasantly surprised to receive a little “to-go” acknowledgement of their efforts,” Taylor shared. “All told, our chapter’s efforts have been different but still a great success.”

They continue to carry on their tradition of service.