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Dental student’s community work helps earn scholarship

Third-year University of Washington dental student Bahara Naimzadeh has been awarded a Dental Trade Alliance Foundation Scholarship for 2020, the foundation has announced.

Bahara NaimzadehNaimzadeh is a student in the School of Dentistry’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program, which is designed to funnel more dentists into rural and/or underserved areas of Washington. Since its launch in 2007, RIDE has seen about three-fourths of its graduates go on to practice in these areas, a rate far above the national average for dental schools.

Naimzadeh’s family immigrated to Western Washington from Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of that country during the 1980s. During a visit to Afghanistan in 2008, she says, she saw the impact made by the lack of education and access to care. “I knew I wanted to be part of the solution,” she said. She sees RIDE as a “steppingstone into a career of community service,” she said.

At the UW, she has worked closely with the Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) and its volunteer outreach at Seattle’s Casa Latina, which facilitates education, employment, and community organizing for the area’s Latino immigrants. As one of HSDA’s outreach coordinators, she helps organize quarterly events in which UW dental and medical students deliver urgently needed health screenings and treatment.

“Giving back to those in need is what inspired me to get into this career in dentistry,” she said. “I hope that someday I can take everything I’ve learned through my outreach and through a career in dentistry back to Afghanistan and help those people that really inspired me to be the person that I am today.”

“Bahara is so deserving of this scholarship, and I cannot think of a more fitting reward for her hard work and accomplishments,” said School of Dentistry Dean Gary Chiodo. “The RIDE program is one of our school’s crown jewels, and it is students like Bahara who help us to maintain its excellent reputation and history. Her path in coming to our dental school and the RIDE program was challenging, and her commitment to giving back to communities that are in need is impressive.”

The Dental Trade Alliance Foundation scholarships go to students at accredited dental schools who have demonstrated financial need, have a commitment to community service, and are in good academic standing. With awards ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, the program has grown since its inception in 2012, when two $5,000 awards were made. This year, the foundation will award up to 38 scholarships. A gift from the Robert J. Sullivan Family Foundation initiated the program, and further support has come from the Sullivan foundation, Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund, Crown Seating, and an anonymous donor.