The University of Iowa

Reynolds uses Stanley Award to Fight Cavities in Mexico

September 10th, 2013

By Ashley Hosseini

Julie Reynolds poses with children
Julie Reynolds poses with children who participated in her study on children’s tooth decay at a local preschool in Xicotepec, Mexico.

With the help of funds granted by the Stanley Award for International Research, Julie Reynolds (M.S. candidate in Dental Public Health) headed to Xicotepec, Mexico, for six weeks this summer to conduct original research on children’s tooth decay.

Reynolds has cultivated her interest in internationalism and global health throughout her education. One of her most formative international experiences was a service trip to Kenya that she participated in as an undergraduate—it was this experience that ignited her passion for learning about new cultures through travel.

Study participants returning survey
Study participants returned their completed surveys and receiving a toothbrush, toothpaste, and sheet of information about child oral health as compensation for participating.

Later on, Reynolds combined her interest in international exchange with her coursework as a dental school student. With cohorts of dental students, she traveled to Cambodia and southern India to provide oral health education in rural communities. She also became involved with the Xicotepec Project, an annual service trip organized by Rotary International and the University of Iowa. Through this program she has been able to travel to and volunteer in the Xicotepec community for the past three years. 

After completing dental school, she began working towards an M.S. in Dental Public Health along with a Global Health Certificate. Thanks to the Stanley Award, this year's Xicotepec trip represented a new phase in Reynolds’ international experience repertoire: traveling as an independent researcher.

On this trip, Reynolds investigated factors that contribute to children’s tooth decay in Xicotepec, a research interest that was conceived through her previous experience working with the community. For her research, she collected data by creating a survey regarding children’s dental health for parents and local dentists to fill out. Working with her host family and local schools, she set up venues for parents to come and fill out surveys and distributed surveys to local dentist offices as well. At the completion of the project, Reynolds had data from almost 400 parents and over 30 dentists in the town. Ultimately this data will serve as the basis for her final research project for the Global Health Certificate.

Reynolds with her host family
Reynolds with her host family: Dr. Miguel Oropeza, his wife Gaby Carballo, and two children, Chucho and Gaby

Her ties to the community in Xicotepec do not end with this project though—Reynolds plans to return with the Xicotepec Project in the years to come in order to continue to help lead the dental team traveling with the other volunteers.

Using what she learned during her time researching in Xicotepec, Reynolds hopes to begin a new chapter of her professional career as both a dentist and international community worker. In addition to working in a clinical practice in the U.S. following her graduation, she hopes to devote her time to developing international collaborative oral disease prevention programs in new locations in Latin America.

Learn more about the Stanley Graduate Award for International Research.