Laurian Lue Yen ’10 Helps Fellow Jamaicans Brush Up Their Oral Health

This fall, Laurian Lue Yen ’10 was a guest on “Smile Jamaica,” one of the country’s top morning news shows. Dressed in a white lab coat, Lue Yen sat across from the anchor, who introduced her as “the chair of the Association for Oral Health Advancement and Brush Up Jamaica.”

Awareness is a central tactic of the Association for Oral Health Advancement and its spin-off project Brush Up Jamaica, and Lue Yen was on-air to educate. Both organizations, which she founded, host health fairs. The former provides free dental care, broadly defined, to anyone in need, while Brush Up Jamaica targets children and people in rural areas.

Lue Yen has always dreamed of becoming a chief dentist, but her more immediate goals involve implementing a lunchtime brushing program in schools and raising money to buy a three-chair mobile dental clinic that could reach Jamaicans living in remote villages.

After she graduated from Mount Holyoke, Lue Yen returned to Jamaica and enrolled in dental school at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), where she discovered the pervasive effects of gum disease. She learned that regular brushing and flossing is not just a vain ritual for a sparkly smile, but regular care can prevent serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.

She won’t graduate from UTech until 2015, but Lue Yen and her classmates couldn’t wait to begin. “How can we be learning all this stuff and not try to fix the problem?” she explains. They started the group in October 2011 and plan to expand the project after graduation.

Lue Yen continues to spread the word and the smiles. October was oral health awareness month, and Brush Up Jamaica collaborated with University of Florida dental students to treat 1,000 Jamaicans. They finished the month forty-seven patients short of that goal, but Lue Yen isn’t stopping anytime soon. “[Dental care] is so important to them, they just can’t afford it,” she says.

—By Olivia Lammel ’14

 

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