UW School of Dentistry

Local Syrian refugees receive dental screenings

School of Dentistry faculty and students have begun screening dozens of area Syrian refugees for dental care at the University of Washington.

Yassin with Alhamdan
Bassan Alhamdan, a Syrian refugee who came to Seattle by way of Jordan, receives a screening from Dr. Layla Yassin of the School of Dentistry affiliate faculty.

Under the leadership of Dr. Alaa Yassin, a third-year periodontology resident at the school, between 85 and 100 Syrian adults and children are expected to receive free screenings. The first round of screenings was held on Jan. 17 at the school and at the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Magnuson Park. A second round will take place at the same locations on Jan. 27.

Dr. Yassin, an oral surgeon from Damascus who entered the school in 2014, has maintained close ties with the local Syrian community and is vice president of Muslim Health Professionals of Puget Sound.

“Many of the Syrian refugees approached me with dental needs because I am a dentist and I am involved in providing services to the refugee community,” he said. “I wanted to get them admitted as patients at the School of Dentistry to make sure they’d receive high-quality dental care.”

Pete Harbert with child patient
Dr. Pete Harbert, a Pediatric Dentistry resident, treats a young patient in front of an attentive audience.

Faculty members and residents like Dr. Yassin volunteered to perform the screenings, which include X-rays. Once patients are admitted, the adults will be treated by pre-doctoral dental students under faculty supervision at the school, while the children will be seen by pediatric dental residents and faculty  at the Center.

The need is often dire, Dr. Yassin said. Many of the refugees have spent years in camps in places such as Jordan or Turkey and have not received dental care during that time. Some may not ever have seen a dentist, he said.

Aside from the immediate health benefits, the process of receiving care also helps the refugees integrate more fully into U.S. society, he said.

Dr. Yassin expressed thanks to his own health professionals group, which provided interpreters and lunch for the outreach as well as the Refugee Welcome Home outreach of World Relief in Seattle, which assisted with transportation. In addition, Crest and Oral-B donated toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste.

Arabic-speaking School of Dentistry faculty members volunteered to serve as interpreters, as did interpreters from the Seattle community, he said.

Beside Dr. Yassin, those directly involved in the adult screenings included Dr. Layla Yassin, Dr. Yassin’s wife and a member of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery affiliate faculty; Dr. Nabil A-Krumly of the Restorative Dentistry faculty; Dr. Ahmad El-Zawi, an Oral Medicine resident; and Dr. Jenovie Hsia, director of the Dental Admissions Clinic. At the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Travis Nelson coordinated the children’s screenings.

“We owe a great deal not only to Dr. Yassin for his leadership, but also to our Patient Services office staff here and the staff at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry,” said Dean Joel Berg. “They worked tirelessly behind the scenes to arrange this outreach to our community, and I’m grateful for their outstanding effort.”