Dugoni School Student on a Mission to Help Community
“I want to get out in the community and bring awareness to oral health issues and overall body issues that people face.”
As Kenny Jones, DDS Class of 2023, was growing up in his hometown of American Canyon, he couldn’t help noticing those in his community who were struggling through hard times, and wanting to do something to make a difference. College gave him a way. While attending University of California, San Diego for his undergraduate degree, Kenny joined an organization on campus called the Flying Sams, a medical service club in association with the non-profit service organization, The Flying Samaritans Inc. The organization is dedicated to providing free medical services to underserved people in Mexico through a clinic staff made up of volunteer physicians, nurses, dental assistants, medical and pre-medical students.
“The volunteer work in Mexico really led me to decide that dentistry was for me,” says Kenny. “It was very fulfilling to be able to help people relieve pain almost immediately.”
Initially signing up for what he thought was just a one-year volunteer position with the organization, Kenny became the dental coordinator for three years, going on more than 30 different volunteer trips to the clinic in Mexico where he helped provide free dental and general medical care to the residents of the small town. As one of the coordinators, he would help with the logistics of each trip, such as fundraising and recruiting doctors. “It was great because it gave us the opportunity to help a population that doesn’t have access to basic care.”
Now in his first year at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, he hopes to continue his volunteer work. He would like to take part in one of the student mission trips to places such as Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines to provide oral health care and instruction in the community. However, all oral health missions are currently on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, Kenny is working on relaunching the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), which had been inactive for a few years. The SNDA promotes and support the academic and social environment of minority students. Currently president of the organization, Kenny is collaborating with his fellow students to plan activities and help people locally.
“I want to get out in the community and bring awareness to oral health issues and overall body issues that people face,” says Kenny. “One of the focuses we want to have is to create a safe space to talk about those things that many people aren’t comfortable talking about such as race and politics. I want to make an impact.”
Kenny feels like the environment at the Dugoni School is one that encourages students to grow and learn as leaders and dentists in the community. “There’s just an openness that everyone has and there’s a lot of opportunities for us as students to learn in different ways, especially with COVID-19 and the virtual world we are in now. It’s teaching us that we can do so much even if it’s not in person. That’s just the community at Dugoni.”