Dental Graduates on Front Line of World Health Crisis

Alumni Responds to COVID-19

Haifa Alkhodier, D.D.S. Class of 2017, M.S.
Haifa Alkhodier, D.D.S. Class of 2017, M.S.

HAIFA ALKHODIER, D.D.S. Class of 2017, M.S.
Associate Consultant in Pediatric Dentistry, Department of Dentistry, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the world in so many ways starting with the disappearance of the daily commute to the way people greet each other.

From a disease control point of view, the previous SARS outbreak experience showed the efficacy of timely quarantine and isolation. Having said that, Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that placed a 24-hour curfew and lockdown on some of the cities, including Riyadh, the capital. This action implemented the recommendations of the health authorities in order to increase the level of preventive measures and raise precautions to confront the coronavirus pandemic and to protect the welfare of the citizens and residents.

To promote the pandemic control and minimize the risk of exposure, the hospital (where I work) has implemented a home delivery system for the medications. The major challenge we faced was the huge number of patients we are serving. The number of prescriptions that were ready for delivery exceeded the capability of the available express delivery services. This led to the development of a very organized volunteer system—in addition to the express delivery services—and the result was heart lifting! We were fortunate to have a good number of experienced, engaged and motivated volunteers.

I was honored and blessed to be part of this achievement that improved our patients’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic by making sure they received their medications in a timely manner and in the best condition.

Finally, in the wake of COVID-19, we had the chance to live in an extraordinary period of time. Never in history have we had the chance to witness what the world looks like if everything simply stopped!”


Pediatric Resident, NYU Langone Brooklyn, New York, New York

“When I first heard about COVID-19, I was concerned because our field involves working very closely with patients. We knew that extreme new precautions would need to be in place immediately to keep everyone safe. However, no one anticipated that my dental co-residents and I would be deployed in the hospital to battle the virus, alongside our medical colleagues. It was overwhelming initially, especially with nationwide shortages of PPE.
We were trained to run tests on patients’ blood samples in the blood gas lab and worked 12-hour shifts, helping wherever we could assist. Amidst the pandemic, I have seen so much kindness and teamwork from the traveling nurses, physicians and residents who are helping to treat COVID-19 patients. Being at the epicenter of our nation has been a challenging situation for everyone involved, but I believe that we will come out of this stronger.”

Scott E. Howell, D.M.D., M.P.H., Dental Public Health Certificate Class of 2019

SCOTT E. HOWELL, D.M.D., M.P.H., Dental Public Health Certificate Class of 2019
Assistant Professor and Director of Teledentistry,
Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health,
A.T. Still University, Mesa, Arizona

“I worked with my dental hygiene colleagues to help get the ATSU-ASDOH teledentistry program up and running at our dental school in 2015. We are one of only a few schools in the country to teach our students about teledentistry in the classroom and also provide teledentistry clinical experiences. Our teledentistry program allows us to provide care to underserved and vulnerable populations including youth in detention, adults in rehabilitation facilities, and low-income seniors.
COVID-19 completely changed how dentists were practicing and as a result many people have asked about how they can incorporate teledentistry into their practices. I’ve been able to provide resources to countless dentists, dental offices, and community health centers across the country because of what I have learned and done in the last five years. Also, working with MouthWatch, LLC, I joined their COVID-19 Advisory Board to help produce materials and training to better prepare people to use teledentistry as a way to connect with their patients during and after the pandemic.
In the photo, I am teaching a colleague some techniques for using intraoral cameras to better collect digital records for the purposes of conducting a dental exam using teledentistry.”

Robert Lemke, D.D.S. Class of 1987, M.D., P.A., Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency 1993

ROBERT LEMKE, D.D.S. Class of 1987, M.D., P.A., Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency 1993
Advanced Oral Surgery of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

“As a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon with multiple offices, the COVID-19 effects have been significant to our offices. When talk of COVID-19 first started in early March, I began to take measures to be ahead of the problem. Like most practitioners, I knew very little about COVID-19 and began to ask basic questions that delved back to our days as dental and medical students studying microbiology: What is a virus? How do we become infected? How do we protect ourselves?

Asking these questions, led me down pathways to a plethora of other questions. It is from using our UT Health library’s resources and PubMed that I was able to answer many of these questions to help in our day-to-day practice.

Questions of virology led to viral particle size that led to mask and filtration efficiency of masks. This led to reading studies on different mask types and even the use of copper and silver and gentian violet within masks to increase their germicidal abilities. ‘Armed’ with this information, I began to assemble the knowledge into lectures. I have been lecturing now using Zoom and other platforms to educate other health care professionals throughout the world. Topics of pandemic epidemiology, how to re-use disposables, the use of UVC and microwaves for sterilization and how we can implement all of this into our daily practices have been presented.

Every day I am amazed at how many new challenges we have before us. What is more amazing and rewarding though is how our education from UT Health San Antonio, our resources and our community spirit continue to not only be present but to grow in these challenging times. All of the talks I have given would not have been possible if it were not for what I have learned and continue to learn from my UT Health colleagues.”

Kristen K. Self, D.D.S. Class of 2019

KRISTEN K. SELF, D.D.S. Class of 2019
Pediatric Dentist Resident, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina

“In our dental clinic, we see pediatric patients and patients with special health care needs. During COVID-19, we have transitioned from routine care procedures to seeing patients with urgent dental needs only. I’m grateful MUSC has provided the necessary resources to allow us to provide care for our patient population. I’m hopeful we can look back on this time as opportunities seized for reflection, learning, reconnection with others, innovation and much more!”

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In the 2020 issue of Salute

Salute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our dental alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2020 issue

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