Beacon Hill Women’s Forum (BHWF) members gathered at the Hampshire House on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The evening program began with Neighborhood Narratives speaker, Jennifer Hill, owner of Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill on Charles Street. The keynote speaker, Dr. Brittany Seymour, assistant professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine gave a sensational presentation about her career in global dental health that inspired the crowd. Her husband, daughter and students, who are integral to her remarkable life story, were also present.
At the Forum, Dr. Seymour shared stories from her journal entries, starting in fall 2007. At the time, she was operating her thriving private dental practice in downtown Denver, feeling as though she was living the dream by everyone’s standards, but simply not her own. A voice from within informed her, “You are not meant to work where dentistry is, you are meant to work where dentistry is not.”
Thus started her mission, “Global Dental Crusade.” She recounted a profound meeting with Lucas, a 5-year-old brain cancer patient bearing a scar across his bald head, from whom she received her nickname, “the dentist with yellow hair.” It was during her first international volunteer role at a pediatric cancer support house in Brazil in July 2008, a community that had previously never seen a dentist. The two bonded immediately and Lucas eagerly volunteered himself to be her first dental screening patient. To her dismay, his little mouth was full of severe dental cavities and infections; that was also the case for everyone else. For the trip, she had packed a box full of toothbrushes and fluoride toothpastes to distribute, but realized that even such simple preventative public health measures would not be sustainable for a community without running water.
Dr. Seymour shared shocking statistics that approximately 3.5 billion people are currently living without access to dental care, and that the most common disease in the world is cavities. In order to have widespread impact, she decided to contribute to efforts of building the fundamental infrastructure to support oral healthcare initiatives in resource-poor areas.
She enrolled in the Global Health program at Harvard School of Public Health where she was offered a full scholarship from the president of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, who had heard about her goals. BHWF members learned from Dr. Seymour’s video clips summarizing her projects. Working with local governments, she leads important initiatives, including launching dental clinics and schools in Haiti, Rwanda (where the first dentist in the country will graduate this October from the program she helped establish), Alaska and Vietnam. Dr. Seymour ended her presentation with an empowering message – her four ingredients for success: “hope for what is possible; faith that it is possible; courage to pursue; failure to learn patience, persistence and joy of progress.”
For further information about BHWF’s speakers and events, visit www.beaconhillwomensforum.org.