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Importance of preventative dentistry, desire to serve underserved led student to ATSU-MOSDOH

A.T. Still University-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH) student Samirah Zada, D2, and her family didn’t know much about the importance of preventive dentistry while she was growing up in San Mateo, California.

“I only went to the dentist if I had pain because my family did not know the serious nature of preventative dentistry,” she said.

That’s changed, as Zada completed ATSU-College of Graduate Health Studies’ Master of Public Health-Dental Emphasis program in 2021, following her graduation from the University of California, Merced, with a bachelor’s of science in biological sciences. It all led to her choosing ATSU-MOSDOH to pursue her doctor of dental medicine degree.

“Through my master’s program at ATSU, I had the opportunity to develop and implement programs that educate people about the importance of oral health. I saw how ATSU’s mission lined up with my goals, so I knew ATSU-MOSDOH would be a good fit for me as a dental student,” she said.

Zada is vice president of Still Caring Health Connection, a student-led community outreach program which provides medical and dental screenings for underserved communities in northeast Missouri. 

“I conducted oral screenings, applied fluoride varnish, and engaged in oral health discussions with the Amish community,” she said. “I also had the chance to interact with participants of the Treatment Court Program in Adair County and provide oral health education.”

Zada also serves as a student ambassador and enjoys being one of the first people prospective students meet when visiting the Kirksville, Missouri, campus. 

“I have loved my time at this university, so I am always happy to answer any questions visitors have. I enjoyed interacting with student ambassadors when I was interviewing and wanted to make sure prospective students get the same opportunity,” she said. “Through ATSU-MOSDOH, I have met so many wonderful people. I have grown very close to my classmates and faculty members. ATSU is a very welcoming university, which made it easier to adapt to the rigors of dental school.”

Zada enjoys playing badminton and visiting nearby Thousand Hills State Park in her free time from preparing for a career in dentistry.

“ATSU-MOSDOH is helping me prepare to become a dentist that cares about patients, beyond what is happening in their mouth. I hope to be a dentist that can educate patients about how diseases in the body can affect a person’s oral health,” she said.

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