I am Avrita Brar, a junior at Chapman University with a major in Health Sciences and a minor in Psychology. Dr. Jasleen Brar, my mom, graduated from the University of Southern California, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry in 1996 and has her general dentistry and multi-specialty practices in Tustin. Due to our passion for global health, my mom and I decided to gather a group of dentists, dental auxiliaries, and student volunteers to embark on a dental mission trip to India in December 2018 for two weeks.

We held our camp in a small, rural, and countryside town called Sadhar which is located in the district of Ludhiana in Punjab. Sadhar has an agricultural based economy and most of the families we saw had never been to a dentist before and had no knowledge about oral hygiene. The lack of resources makes access to dental care very difficult, so the need for dentists and their teams is very pronounced. Our team of dentists donated a steam autoclave and an ultrasonic scaler to the community center for hygiene and sterilization purposes. Previously, the facility could only sterilize about five sets of instruments in the operatory rooms which were ready the next day. Now with the steam autoclave, the instruments can be sterilized every 20 minutes which is huge for a community that lacks basic hygiene resources.  Additionally, we gave each patient a bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss so they could continue to practice oral hygiene.

 During the journey, I spoke in Punjabi and Hindi which reminded me of the summers I spent with my grandparents as a child in places like Dehli, Ludhiana, Patiala, Chandigarh, and Amritsar. Each of these cities in Punjab has its own tourist destinations and popular food spots. Food was definitely one of the highlights of my trip, as were the visits to several temples. The Golden Temple is the holiest Gurdwara, and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism. The Golden Temple in Amritsar has the largest free community kitchen, serving 70,000 people a day. I loved visiting Anandpur Sahib, one of the most sacred places in Sikhism. It is the place where the last two Sikh Gurus lived and where the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, founded the Khalsa Panth in 1699. Khalsa Panth is the way of the life managed by the Khalsa community, who are self-managed through their democratic and collective wishes. The Wagah-Attari Border between Pakistan is where I saw the lowering of the flags ceremony, a daily military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance-like maneuvers and raising legs as high as possible. It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation.  

It was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience for me to come back and serve the community that holds my roots. Educating our underserved patients on oral hygiene was a meaningful experience because it gave me an insight on how important global mission trips are to people in need. The appreciation that the patients showed really touched my heart and through my passion for global health, I look forward to helping families and children on future mission trips.

I have discovered that the field of dentistry uniquely embodies my values and goals, offering me a rewarding and impactful profession.  I am excited to begin dental school at a challenging program. I am involved in many groups and programs. Currently, I am involved in the Chapman Pre-Dental Society, AMSA, and TriBeta. I am also a tutor for Biology, Physiology, and Organic Chemistry. In addition, I am an alumnus of the Medical and Intelligence Innovations Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and I was a part of the first group of interns that started this program. I have been involved for over four summers now, and I enjoy mentoring each year’s incoming interns. Through this internship, I have presented my abstracts at Pediatrics 2040: Trends and Innovations for the Next 25 Years, a national pediatric conference, and at CHOC Children’s grand rounds many times on topics relating to global health, genomic medicine, and stem cell research.