Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine student Kamiya Khatwani spent three weeks in India presenting oral health awareness sessions to more than 2,400 individuals from July 15-Aug. 5.
Along with her brother, Dr. Nikhil Khatwani, a general dentist and a budding endodontist practicing in India, Kamiya visited multiple schools across two states, Gujarat and Maharashtra, in India.
With Kamiya’s family in India and as a partner in her brother’s dental practice, she is always seeking ways to serve the community. “Our practice has a program called ‘Sunday Smiles,’ where we provide dental services to the underserved community children every third Sunday of the month,” she said.
With a family connection to the founders of Harishewa Education Campus, their first stop was at the school based in the city of Vadodara in Gujarat. “My mother-in-law and my husband’s uncle are school trustees,” Khatwani said. “So, when I expressed interest in an oral healthcare presentation, they welcomed the idea and supported me to organize the event for more than 1,000 students in 5th -10th grades.”
Khatwani’s family connections continued to lead to more educational opportunities. “My cousin, who teaches as an associate professor at Netaji High School, told me about the need for oral health awareness and asked if we could give a presentation at her school,” she said.
Netaji High School is one of the schools managed and funded by the Sindhu Education Society (SES). Rekha Thakur, SES secretary, happened to be on the campus that day and attended the presentation. “Ms. Thakur and the principal were very impressed by our presentation/interactive session, and asked if we could do the presentation for other schools managed and funded by the SES,” said Khatwani, who presented at five of the 11 different campuses in the city.
“I made a powerpoint presentation with lots of pictures covering a range of different oral health topics and tweaked it a bit to cater to the audience based on the age groups,” Khatwani said.
“Most of the students were from low socio-economic backgrounds, but the questions that they posed were brilliant,” Khatwani said. “They were inquisitive, interactive and were keen to know more about oral and systemic health. Overall, it was an awesome feeling and a humbling experience to reach out to so many individuals in such a short trip.”
An additional benefit was created when Thakur spoke with the managing committee of Swami Shanti Prakash Trust, one of the oldest trusts in the city. Upon hearing about the oral healthcare education initiative for the SES students, the trust voluntarily provided toothbrushes and notebooks to the attendees. A local volunteer also arranged for dental floss to be distributed among all the students.
Khatwani’s original plan was to do only two presentations. They eventually conducted dental awareness sessions for four different schools and two colleges: Swami Hansumani Degree College and Sitaldas Khemani College. The other schools and degree college are based in Ulhasnagar, a suburb of Mumbai(Bombay) city, in Maharashtra.