Pacific student engaging local homeless population through oral hygiene
University of the Pacific student and aspiring dentist Arooba Lodhi '21 is using her experience in oral healthcare to help some of Stockton’s homeless population break the cycle of poverty.
Lodhi has worked closely with the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless and San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services to distribute oral care kits to the homeless community. She and fellow Pacific students are using the kits as a starting point to engage the homeless about oral health and then use a holistic approach to have conversations about additional issues.
"I've been volunteering with the homeless population since coming to Pacific and have been struck by the lack of healthcare opportunities they have to address their basic needs," explained Lodhi. "So, I decided to combine my passions for dentistry and social work to bring about positive change to this community."
"It's important for us to see how insufficient access to healthcare intersects with other factors that contribute to homelessness," said Lodhi. "People who are socially excluded experience multiple forms of discrimination, stigma and disadvantages. So, we are working to engage these individuals and help provide them with the resources to regain control of their lives."
The biology and pre-dentistry major was attracted to Pacific because of the opportunities to create change.
"As a Powell Scholar, we have the ability to collaborate on projects to enact change in whichever areas interest us," said Lodhi. "I wanted to have the opportunity to make an impact on the community during my college experience."
Pacific Powell Scholars are recipients of the university’s premier academic scholarship. In addition to being high-achieving talented leaders, these students develop individual and group projects that often become game changers for communities. Past scholars have taught English as a foreign language in Dimen, China, created a tutoring service dedicated to educating and preparing Stockton students for standardized testing and helped develop an intensive microgreen growing system for clients at the Calaveras Food Bank.
Lodhi appreciates the support she receives from faculty and the student-centered environment.
"All of my professors at Pacific have consistently reached out to me to make a personalized connection," she said. "Dr. Courtney Lehmann has been my biggest supporter throughout my four years. She truly believes in a mission of providing future generations with the education and inspiration to create equitable communities."
"In my classes, I feel confident to share my opinions because I know I'll be respected and heard," said Lodhi. "At Pacific, professors treat students as equals and try to foster critical thinking. It creates a teacher-and-student dynamic not found on every university campus."
Lehmann, professor of English and director of Powell Scholars, is equally complimentary of Lodhi's achievements at Pacific.
"Arooba is one of the most talented and giving people I’ve ever known," said Lehmann. "She has worked tirelessly to address the enormous equity gap in preventative oral healthcare by developing a low-pay or no-pay clinic in downtown Stockton both for teaching disadvantaged communities about the importance of oral healthcare and for providing dental hygiene services."
Following graduation this May, Lodhi will remain in Stockton to continue her work with the homeless population and create a foundation that will be a no-pay oral health clinic. She has inspired two other pre-dental majors in the Powell Scholars Program, Nikki Parikh and Aneri Mehta, to join the work she has started. Together, they are looking for donors or corporate sponsors to support their work.
"I like to think that change needs to start at home," said Lodhi. "Pacific has been my home for the last four years, so I need to finish my work in Stockton before I can expand on it."