Dentistry, '21

Do Hyung Kwon

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GRIP: Intern in The Gambia

Program Abroad:

  • Global Research & Internship Program (GRIP): Power Up Gambia Intern in Bwiam, The Gambia

Ask me about...

  • Being abroad in Africa

  • Being abroad in a developing country

  • Living in a rural setting

  • Healthcare development

  • Global and public health

  • Partnerships with NGOs, local government, and private efforts

My Experience Abroad:

The word 'life-changing' gets thrown around a lot to describe experiences, but our summer in The Gambia definitely feels like it will live up to the label. Me and my colleague, Matt Nelson, came to the country expecting to do some dental assisting in a different environment and setting from Penn. What we found here was a project that has taken a life of its own and one that we want to help nurture and develop throughout our educational careers at Penn and beyond.

Coming from a third world country, my motivation to study dentistry always had a service and global health component to it. In The Gambia, I found a safe, accessible, and friendly country where I rekindled and developed those passions. We worked alongside local medical students and administration to lay the framework for a potential collaboration between our universities as they looked to develop dental capacity in their country, we participated in health talk shows on both radio and television, we trekked to rural communities and schools to teach about oral hygiene and prevention techniques, we worked with health departments to compile and analyze nationwide data, and we even produced a song for youth about oral care (that we need a catchy dance for in case anyone has ideas!). 

Matt and I will continue our work started here in The Gambia here at Penn to design and ensure a long-term and consistent participation from the School of Dental Medicine in this internship. We hope to develop a project that can afford real, measurable, and effective contributions to the development of a country's healthcare system and dental sector. We hope many more students will join us in this mission and are more than happy to answer questions from any health professions, pre-health, or just generally curious students and community members!

Other Highlights:

  • Participating in the media (radio, tv, music) of another country.

  • Going on a safari in Senegal during a free weekend.

  • Making friends and working alongside local students from all nationalities and walks of life.

  • Helping with farming during the planting season.

  • Observing dentistry practiced in all kinds of settings, from foreign-funded NGO clinics, public hospitals, traditional healers, village health posts, private clinics, etc.

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