Posts tagged Service
'Tis the Season for Giving

Warm Clothing drive 1 (1)Over the past year, ASDA has had increasing involvement with the Comitis Shelter, a shelter near campus that houses individuals and families. Since beginning our involvement with the shelter, I’ve been surprised to learn more about the causes of homelessness and the statistics of those that are affected. For example, did you know there are over 14,000 homeless children in Colorado? As the holidays approach, giving back to our local community becomes increasingly important and your help can truly make a difference for a family in need. One of the most crucial steps to helping is to become educated about individuals experiencing homelessness and to deconstruct misperceptions. During our first time volunteering at Comitis, I met a veteran currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Anschutz campus. Because of the intensive treatment, he’s unable to work and is residing at the shelter with his two young daughters. This gentleman, among others, represents one of the real reasons that a majority of these individuals are homeless. Sickness happens. Job loss happens. Death happens. Divorce happens. Sometimes people experience tough times.

My mentor, Dr. Bruce, inspired me years ago to take on a giving attitude as a dental student and eventual practitioner. In addition to running a successful practice, Dr. Bruce and his wife volunteer at a local shelter once a week to provide dental care to those in need. His goal is to provide emotional and spiritual guidance in addition to dental care to enable people to live a better life. I’ve witnessed the personal transformations and success stories of those that Dr. Bruce has worked with and have been inspired to continue this act of giving now, and throughout my career.

How can we, as students, make a difference in the lives of others? In addition to providing dental education, there are several ways we can give back. Below are 5 ways you can help from this holiday season and throughout the year. Visit for a full list of ideas for involvement!


  1. Volunteer at a shelter - Shelters thrive on the work of volunteers, from those who sign people in, to those who serve meals, to others who counsel the homeless on where to get social services. For the homeless, a shelter can be as little as a place to sleep out of the rain, or as much as a step toward self-sufficiency.
  2. Tutor homeless children - A tutor can make all the difference. Just having adult attention can spur children to do their best. Many programs exist in shelters, transitional housing programs, and schools that require interested volunteers. Or begin you own tutor volunteer corps at your local shelter. It takes nothing more than a little time.
  3. Donate clothing - Next time you do your spring or fall cleaning, keep an eye out for those clothes that you no longer wear. If these items are in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations that provide housing for the homeless.
  4. Donate toys – Children living in shelters have few possessions --if any-- including toys. Homeless parents have more urgent demands on what little money they have, such as food and clothing. So often these children have nothing to play with and little to occupy their time. You can donate toys, books, and games to family shelters to distribute to homeless children. For Christmas or Chanukah, ask your friends and co-workers to buy and wrap gifts for homeless children.
  5. Teach about the homeless - If you do volunteer work with the homeless, you can become an enthusiast and extend your enthusiasm to others. You can infect others with your own sense of devotion by writing letters to the editor of your local paper.


Comitis VolunteerThis year, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside so many good hearted and compassionate individuals dedicated to making a positive difference in our community. During our school wide warm clothing donation drive for our local shelter, hundreds of students and faculty donated warm clothing and helped spread the word to local organizations. The DS1 students even raised enough money to purchase nearly 30 coats for the shelter! Colorado winters are rough and it was great to see so many students work together to help keep people warm this winter.

It’s the season of giving and now is the perfect time to give back and help families in need. Check out this website to learn more about facts and statistics of those experiencing homelessness and email me if you’d like to get involved!

The Syrian Crisis and Dentistry

SyriaGetting concrete information on world affairs can often feel like trying to build a restoration out of Jello. It seems no matter where you look, news is inherently biased and trying to push one political agenda or another. Factual reporting seems to have evaporated like acrylic monomer beneath the sun. So it is with some trepidation that I set out to write about the Syrian refugee crisis. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of the decade, there has been a fair amount of strife in Syria. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write an understatement. There are at least three factions—and really more like five or six—vying for control of a country 25% smaller than Colorado. Imagine, if you will, living in a place where instead of hearing honking horns, gunfire is more the norm. A place where you must live in constant fear of bombings—both from the sky and from the ground. A place where, at any given moment, your life could end. Try to imagine what you would do in such a place.

I recently met a patient in screening. He told me his teeth hurt, which is not uncommon in that clinic. We chatted for a while about how the school works and what he could expect from his time with us. I did notice he wasn’t opening his mouth much to talk. While playing the waiting-for-faculty game, we made small talk. Food came up, and I mentioned I like middle-eastern cuisine. He told me he was from Syria, and he suggested I try the restaurant at which he works. I thought nothing of it.

Then I looked in his mouth.

His teeth—all 28 of them—were ground down to below the CEJ. His mouth looked like someone had taken a handpiece and leveled every tooth to an almost-perfect flat plane. I had to resist the urge to gasp. I asked him about his habits, trying to determine an etiology of what I was seeing. It was a short conversation.

His answer was that he ground his teeth during times of stress. Over the past couple of years, twenty-nine of his extended family members had been killed in and around Syria. Twenty. Nine. They had been killed in the civil war. They had been murdered by ISIS. They had perished trying to flee across the Mediterranean. The how doesn’t really matter.

Imagine your extended family. If I think, I can come up with about fifty names of family members with whom I have a connection. Now imagine that over half of them are dead. It’s a sobering thought.

I set out to write this article without taking a side on the refugee crisis. But every time I hear about the thousands of people fleeing Syria, my mind involuntarily returns to this patient. Never have I met someone who so starkly illustrated just how good our lives are in this country.

In the wake of the attacks in Paris, this issue has risen to the very forefront of mainstream media. Like so many issues, it has become politicized, where every person has to pick a side—red or blue. There are those who fear ISIS will sneak into our country under the guise of refugees. And there are those who feel compelled to open our borders and welcome the refugees.

I completely understand both sides of the argument. Am I afraid of ISIS entering our country? Of course I am. It’s a very real fear, the kind of fear that can turn your stomach to ice. But you all know the line: “All we have to fear is fear itself.” That fear shouldn’t make us lose our decency as human beings. If we let fear divide us, ISIS has already won.

To say it is a complicated problem would be to call the sun warm. But I always go back to this patient. How can I, in good conscience, sit in the relative safety of my home, and at the same time deny this man a chance to reunite with the remaining members of his family? No matter how many arguments I read, I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know the right answer. As H.L. Menkin once said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

What I do know is that, this week especially, I’m thankful for the country in which I live. I’m thankful for the men and women who fight to defend the freedoms I often take for granted. And I’m thankful that—in the not-too-distant future—my chosen profession will allow me to help patients like this, taking away some part of their pain, however small a part it may be.


I would welcome conversation and debate, as long as it is kept civil. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.



The first time I heard about ASDA, I didn’t even realize I was hearing about ASDA. All I knew was that I wanted scrubs with the CU School of Dental Medicine logo on it. Since then, however, ASDA has completely changed my dental school experience for the better.

When ASDA was first introduced to our class, a lot of effort went into explaining what it was, and yet, I still found myself struggling to understand it. When I would ask different members about ASDA, they would all give me different answers. Finally, after about a year, I realize that the reason I was having trouble understanding ASDA is because ASDA is everything. It is so all-encompassing that sometimes it can be hard to explain. It wasn’t that nobody knew what ASDA was, it was just that ASDA was something different to everyone.

Simply put, ASDA is the American Student Dental Association which is the nation's largest student run association whose mission centers around protecting and advancing the rights, interests and welfare of dental students. But what does that mean exactly, and more specifically, what does that mean to you?

Well, to better explain ASDA and make its mission, purpose and benefits more clear to those who are less familiar with it, we have decided to literally spell it out for everyone. The letters "ASDA" stand for the American Student Dental Association. But to us, ASDA also stands for the four pillars of Colorado ASDA: Advocacy, Service, Dentistry and Activities. We have decided to focus on these four categories because everything within ASDA can fit into them (and it also conveniently spells out ASDA). We have tried to restructure the chapter's resources to follow this theme. You may notice that even our blog categories are set up to reflect this new focus, as will our website once we get that fully up and running. Of course ASDA is more than just this, but these four words are where everything starts.

Advocacy. Advocacy is what makes ASDA unique from any of the other dental student organizations out there. Locally, we work with the Metro Denver Dental Society and the Colorado Dental Association to educate our state representatives on current issues facing our profession and topics affecting us as students. Nationally, we represent about 92% of all dental students, so people listen to us when we vote in a new policy and take us seriously as an organization.

Service. Service is why most of us sought a career in dentistry in the first place. Our chapter is always organizing service and community outreach activities. From helping out at COMOM to volunteering at the Fifth Gear Kids events, there is always something that you can get involved in to help out the community around us.

Dentistry. I have had numerous people from my class ask me what ASDA is. Before now, the only way that I could really explain it is "everything dentistry outside of dental school." Even though that answer isn't as complete of an answer as I would have liked to give, it still is true. ASDA is where you learn everything about dentistry that you don't learn in dental school. ASDA teaches you to be a leader in your practice and in your community. ASDA shows you how to manage your finances while you are in dental school and ways to manage your business when you graduate. ASDA helps you to prepare for things that you might not even realize that you want to know yet, like integrating new technology into your practice without overdoing it and what things to look for when searching for an associate position.

Activities. The activities that Colorado ASDA puts on are awesome. If you participated in Thrush Week and the Amalgames (see our Facebook Page for pictures), then you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, then it's not too late. We still have plenty of things coming up in the near future (be on the lookout for "Shimstock," our music and talent competition coming in October).

I got involved in ASDA without even fully understanding what it was because I could see potential-- not only in the chapter, but in myself through the chapter. ASDA was the only student organization, in my mind, that had everything... and best of all, it was free!

Since deciding to get involved, I have had some of the most amazing opportunities of my life. ASDA motivates me to step just far enough outside my comfort zone that I do things I have never done before, but not far enough that I regret my participation. It pushes me to meet people, helps me find mentors and gives me the resources that I need to succeed (and not just on boards).

ASDA is a lot of things to a lot of people and our chapter here at Colorado is expanding to become more than it has ever been before. To me, Colorado ASDA is opportunity. It is fun. It is my creative outlet. It is networking. It is the best experience I have had in dental school and it has become a big part of my life. I believe in everything that this organization stands for and choosing to become involved has been one of the best decision I have ever made. I can’t imagine dental school without ASDA, nor would I ever want to. ASDA is about getting involved and having a voice-- so get involved and say something. You might just be surprised at what can happen because of it.

Tell us what #CoASDAis to you in the comments below or use the tag #CoASDAis to tell us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by Aug 29th for your chance to win a $10 Target Gift Card!

~Kyle Luis Larsen, Class of 2017, Colorado ASDA President-Elect