Dental students donate award to charity

Second-year dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry who have won the annual Rayna DiModica Contribution to Society Award are to make a donation to the local charity with which they have worked.

The charity is the Plymouth Highbury Trust based at Peverell, which supports adults with a learning disability across the city. Part of its work includes a self-advocacy organisation called Plymouth People First which runs speaking-up groups across the city and which has over 120 members.

Dental students worked with the charity to provide a range of information to promote and support positive dental health. Activities included fun and interactive workshops and visits to the dental school’s Dental Education Facility at Devonport that helped to break down some of the barriers that stop adults with learning disabilities visiting a dentist.

The Rayna DiModica Contribution to Society Award was established by Tracy De Peralta, Associate Professor of Clinical Dentistry at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in memory of her mother. The award is given to the student group who has best demonstrated that they understand the issues and factors that effect and influence the health and wellbeing of the community group with which they have worked.

This is the second year that the award has been given: the inaugural award was given to a student group who had worked on a project with Plymouth Age Concern and the Elder Tree Support and Befriending Service.

Jill Singh, self-advocacy officer at the Plymouth Highbury Trust, said: ‘We are thrilled to receive this generous cheque in recognition of an excellent project with Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and we are extremely grateful. Our members have really benefited from the work completed with the ‘Rayna DiModica Contribution to Society Award’-winning students. Before the project people avoided visiting the dentist due to lack of understanding of oral healthcare and fear; now the self-advocates have a greater knowledge of procedures and their purpose. Learning was two-fold as the students became more aware of the need for total communication and the impact a learning disability has on an individual. Long may our joint work continue!’

Tracy De Peralta added: ‘All our second-year students take part in community-based special study units such as this one. Each year we are impressed by the commitment and energy our students put into such projects, and the very positive impact they have on the local community. It is always difficult to choose one project over another, but the winners really demonstrated that their interaction with this hard to reach group of the community had a lasting and beneficial effect, and one which will see us working with the charity again in the future.’

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