USC University of Southern California

Ostrow Student Receives 2014-2015 Schweitzer Fellowship

Allison Davis
Allison Davis DDS ’17

By Beth Newcomb MPH ‘13 

A student of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC will help Special Olympics athletes have healthy smiles thanks to a 2014-2015 Los Angeles Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.

The Schweitzer Fellowship is a one-year interdisciplinary, mentored fellowship program for students in Los Angeles focused on health-related community service and leadership development. Eight of the 15 students selected for this year’s fellowships are USC students.

Allison Davis DDS ’17 will spend her fellowship working with the Special Olympics Special Smile Program, which provides oral hygiene instruction and dental screenings to the participants of the Special Olympics. She will be volunteering at each event and also orchestrating the communications between Special Smiles and the dental student volunteers.

“Almost 90 percent of the Special Olympic athletes are under the age of 18, and all of the athletes have intellectual disabilities,” Davis said. “This means that the athletes have certain limitations in mental functioning, which can make understanding the need for oral hygiene difficult. My project aims to make oral hygiene and dentistry more understandable and relatable for young adults with intellectual disabilities.”

Davis said she’d eventually like to set up an ongoing partnership between the Ostrow School and the Special Smile Program, noting that the athletes would benefit from increased access to care and education. In addition, students would benefit from more patient interaction and community experience.

“This will become especially important during the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles,” Davis said. “At Special Olympics events, the athletes’ enthusiasm is palpable, and hopefully this program will leave a lasting impact on the students and lead to better care for patients with intellectual disabilities in the future.”

Davis said that when she finishes dental school, she hopes to maintain her commitment to the community while in private practice and wants to be a good example for others.

“As a professional, there is a responsibility to be a leader,” she said. “My dream is to own a dental practice where one day a month we provide free dental care to patients with special needs. The most successful leaders lead by example, and by completing the Fellowship I am confident that I will have the skills to orchestrate service projects independently so that I can become an effective community leader.”