Just a few short weeks and 6.5 credits of gross anatomy into her dentistry studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, Lyubov Slashcheva ’11 has already identified one of the things she misses most about her Shenandoah Valley home: its topography.
“I have an affinity for a mountainous landscape, so I’ll likely not venture too far away from the Appalachians if I can help it,” says Slashcheva, who was born in Kazakhstan but moved with her family to Dayton, Va., when she was five.
As a recipient of a competitive full scholarship from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Slashcheva has already begun thinking about life after her four-year dental program. In return for funding her dental studies plus a monthly stipend, the NHSC will require Slashcheva to spend four years practicing in a designated “Health Professional Shortage Area” of her choosing.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administers the NHSC and designates the regions of the country with serious shortages of health professionals where scholarship recipients must work. Slashcheva was notified of her scholarship in August.
“I hope I can find a location where there are other clinicians and dentists who can mentor me,” says Slashcheva, who briefly visited her family and EMU in late September after finishing her first anatomy class.
The workload so far has been difficult but manageable – “likely reflective of the excellent preparation I received at EMU,” she says. She has also attended lectures on operative dentistry and practicing cavity preparations on porcelain teeth.
Her second round of classes will include dental neuroanatomy, infection and immunity, periodontics and dental practice management.
While she intends to spend most of her four-year NHSC service commitment somewhere in Appalachia, Slashcheva also hopes to arrange shorter periods at clinics in remote and underserved communities like Indian reservations or in Alaska.
Though just 19 years old, Slashcheva has already gained hands-on experience as a healthcare worker in underserved areas.
After graduating early from EMU last December, Slashcheva spent four months in Honduras and Peru with the Luke Society, a medical mission organization that works around the world. In Gracias, Honduras, she observed and assisted a dentist who worked in the region. In Peru, based in the town of Moyabamba, Slashcheva filled a public health role, educating people in the surrounding communities about the importance of oral health.
In areas where good healthcare is difficult or impossible to access, she says, people can develop apathetic attitudes about their health. Education and encouragement, she found, can empower them to change this attitude and to value improving and preserving their health.
“I think that’s almost more important than coming in and extracting an infected tooth,” says Slashcheva.
Since moving to Richmond in May, Slashcheva has been adjusting to city life and a large, secular university.
“But I am eager to take advantage of the many service and leadership opportunities that the large city and institution offer,” she says.