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International Dental Students Take on Boston

By David Weafer

The International Dental Student Program expanded its reach in 2023. This year, we welcomed 11 exceptional dental students interested in dental research from Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Bolivia and the UK.

Dr. Megan Pugach Gordon, the Director of Education at Forsyth, describes day to day life in the program: “The students spent 4 weeks living in a dormitory at Emmanuel College, exploring Boston, its museums, beaches, neighborhoods, restaurants, sporting venues, dental schools and attractions.”

“Simultaneously they were immersed in Forsyth’s labs, learning laboratory techniques, science lessons from our postdocs and faculty and completing a research project which they presented on their last day.” This summer was packed with opportunities for the students so we asked what the program was like from their perspective.

The Lab Work

The program made its mark on each of the students. For some, spending time in the labs gave them direction for their career path going forward. Sofia Bastos Guimaraes explained, “This experience opened my mind to following an academic career, to dedicating my life to research and becoming a professor.”

Other students, felt their goals stayed the same but they advanced on their journey. Julia Caroline Peterhans Espindola expanded, “I would like to be a researcher some day, and being able to learn the techniques, the routine of the labs, seeing equipment that is not common in my country, all of that made a difference in my academic life.”

The Culture

When you mix students from five different countries in a peer group they are bound to learn about each other’s cultures. Adding this group into the diverse Forsyth labs is a recipe for intercultural exchange. Ana Karina Apodaca de la Garza summed this up perfectly:

“The most profound impact of this experience transcended the laboratory and theoretical aspects. It was the collaboration and teamwork with individuals from diverse countries and cultures that left an unforgettable mark on me.”

“It was truly enlightening to recognize how our shared passion for dentistry and oral health transcended geographical boundaries. As we worked closely together, I realized that our interests aligned effortlessly, creating a sense of unity and camaraderie that I hadn’t expected.”

“This intercultural exchange not only enriched my perspective but also reinforced the notion that, irrespective of our origins, we were all driven by a common purpose. The friendships forged during this program have become incredibly meaningful to me, underscoring the significance of global cooperation in advancing the field of dentistry.”

The Memories

When asked about their favorite aspect of the program many responded with the people. Ezgi Yesiltan emphasized “The people I met, definitely! The professors, my fellow dental students from different parts of the world, in short, Forsythians <3.”

Merve Akbas shared Ezgi’s sentiment. She related, “Our dorm memories will always be unforgettable to me. We were one Turkish, one British, one Mexican, one Brazilian in the same room and whenever we are together in our living room just talking it felt like a party! :)”

Students’ Growth

Drs. Megan Pugach Gordon and Nidia Castro had front row seats to watch the students grow throughout the summer. Dr. Pugach Gordon reflected, “I was thoroughly impressed by their dedication to their projects, how expertly they navigated and explored the Boston area, how brilliant their minds are and how close the cohort became to each other, forming lifelong friendships and relationships with each other and with other Forsythians.”

“In 4 short weeks, they grew from tentative researchers, in a new country with a non-native language (for most), some learning lab techniques for the first time, to confident researchers who are now fully immersed in our diverse Forsyth community, and committed to their oral health careers.”

Dr. Castro traveled from Brazil to assist Dr. Pugach Gordon in running the program. From her perspective the experience was personally enriching as well. She elaborated, “To me, working with the dental students from the Forsyth Program has been an enriching experience. Their bright and intriguing questions make us look at dental research through new, unusual perspectives, and that’s exciting. Also, they are warm and sweet, full of life and dreams. It’s been a privilege to work with them.”

All in all it was an exciting summer for everyone involved.

Student Highlights

From Brazil

Sofia Bastos Guimarães De Faria, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Program impact: “This experience opened my mind to following an academic career, to dedicating my life to research and becoming a professor.”

Júlia Caroline Peterhans Espindola, Unisociesc

Favorite memory: “The first day I walked in to Forsyth and realized everything I dreamed about for months, was actually real, and that I was in it. I had tears in my eyes looking through the institute and imagining what I was about to live.”

Veronica Machado de Oliveira, Guarulhos University

Program Impact: Before the program I would read articles and just imagine how the research was carried out; today I know how the research is carried out and I feel even more desire to be a researcher or collaborate with other researches.

From Turkey

Merve Akbaş, İstanbul University

Program impact: “Now I realized I want to continue my career within research and Forsyth was the best place to experience it.”

Ezgi Yesiltan, Yeditepe University

Program Impact: “I knew what I wanted to do about my future; I knew my endpoint, but I was unsure about the steps that would lead me to it. Here I learned the steps; everyone/everything helped me a lot in this regard.”

From Mexico

Ana Karina Apodaca de la Garza, Tecnológico de Monterrey

Favorite memory: “One of my most cherished memories from this summer was the moment we wished each other farewell. It was an emotional realization that this goodbye wasn’t an end, but rather a new beginning of lasting connections. Although we knew we would be parting ways soon, the atmosphere was charged with the excitement for future reunions and adventures. We made a pact, reaffirming our commitment to stay connected and visit each other’s countries. The genuine passion we share for our common field is a bond that transcended borders. This memory will forever remind me of the strong bond and lasting friendships we formed during this incredible journey.”

From Bolivia

Diego Arzabe, Universidad del Valle, Bolivia

Favorite memory: “The relationships that I’ve made… we ended up being really close with each other.”

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