By Ellen Garnett
Ana Fernanda Calles, a fourth-year DMD student, was recently awarded the HSDM Global Health Research Travel Award to pursue research in oral health literacy in diabetics with periodontal disease in Mexico City, Mexico.
“My passion for improving the current state of the Mexican healthcare system comes from my strong roots and cultural ties to the country; both my parents are natives of Mexico City and I am very familiar with the city,” said Calles.
Calles will be working with the group Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán (INNSZ) to get a baseline measurement of the level of oral health understanding in her target population, so it can be studied further.
“As trends continue and diabetes progresses toward becoming a disease that indiscriminately plagues underdeveloped countries just as frequently as developed countries, I know that its study as a globalized epidemic will be vital. This is particularly important in light of the steep rise in the Hispanic population in the Northern hemisphere and the rise in immigrant populations seeking dental care,” Calles stated in her proposal.
Calles’ travel, food, meals, and lodging for the month-long externship in April 2017 will be covered by a travel award established by Dr. I Leon Dogon, professor of restorative dentistry at HSDM. It is given to students who wish to travel to developing countries to conduct research, to train others, and/or to provide clinical services.
“My hope is that the HSDM Student Travel Fund will enable more students to experience first-hand how eye-opening and gratifying work in global community health has become,” said Dr. Dogon, upon the creation of the award in 2014.
Before attending HSDM, Calles received her degree in Spanish Literature and studied abroad in Spain and Italy. She also had a Fulbright scholarship as an undergrad studying public health literacy, so her research in Mexico is somewhat of a continuation of her work.
Upon graduation, she is applying to Orthodontics residency programs, and hopes to eventually go into private practice here in the U.S. and internationally.