Second year dental students, Jessica Latimer and Marcus Hwang, have been selected by the University of Washington School of Dentistry to receive the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award. This award honors students from each of the University of Washington (UW) Health Sciences schools who exemplify Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles through commitment to addressing community needs, particularly communities of color and low-income, development and implementation of significant programs to improve the human condition, and outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals.
In addition to the excellent contributions made by Latimer and Hwang to global oral health research at the DeRouen Center, the pair works to increase accessibility to dental care for underserved communities in Washington State through their 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Husky Health Bridge (HHB). Co-founded by Latimer and Hwang and three other students in November 2016, Husky Health Bridge collaborates with the UW School of Dentistry, AmeriCorps, Medical Teams International, and Greater Seattle Cares in a unique partnership of organizations that enables students to offer free dental services to people experiencing homelessness in city sanctioned homeless encampments in the Puget Sound area. Through monthly outreach clinics, HHB offers both friendship and continuity of care to the individuals it serves.
In addition to improving the health of the local homeless population, HHB engages dental students in immersive volunteer efforts. At each outreach clinic, camp residents give students an inside tour of the tent city and share their experiences. These interactions allow students to cultivate a better understanding of the challenges faced by the homeless in everyday life, especially in regard to oral and dental health. Latimer and Hwang believe that HHB outreach clinics provide much needed dental care to minority and underserved communities, while raising awareness about homelessness and health inequity among students.
Hwang and Latimer have contributed to our communities and truly listened to Dr. King’s call to action: Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in. These students strive each day to make this dream possible.