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Profiles in Giving

FILLING THE GAP

By the time she was 15, Judyth Lee, D14, was worried about her teeth. Her friends had all their permanent teeth, but her smile had three gaps where baby teeth had fallen out, and no new teeth had grown in to replace them. A round of X-rays confirmed her worst fears—a congenital defect meant those teeth were never coming in.

Lee feared any occasion where her smile might come under scrutiny. And she dreaded visiting the dentist.During her first year as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, her new dentist suggested implants as a remedy. Her wide new smile was a confidence booster, for sure, but that was just the beginning of how it would change her life.

Lee already had decided she wanted a career in which she could help others. As a teenager, she had accompanied her church choir on mission trips to Latin America, where she learned that she really wanted to work with children—perhaps by going to medical school and becoming a pediatrician.

But the implants changed all that, and she decided that she could achieve her goals through dentistry. She could teach kids how to take care of their teeth, treat them for conditions like her own—and maybe even help them enjoy their trips to the dentist.

When it came time to pick a dental school, Tufts’ reputation and emphasis on clinical training persuaded her to come to Boston.

A five-week externship at St. Joseph Health Services in Providence, R.I., gave her hands-on experience in pediatric dentistry. And she has been active in the Smile Squad, a student-run community outreach program in which dental students teach children in the Boston Public Schools about oral health. She is now the president of the Smile Squad.

Lee is one of 10 dental students to receive scholarships this year thanks to the Altshuler GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Challenge. Justin Altshuler, D46, matched gifts from alumni of the classes of 2002 to 2012, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. This challenge was successfully met by the end of June, and Altshuler’s resulting $50,000 contribution to the school was divided among 10 students in need of financial aid.

Lee says the scholarship will ease her debt burden immensely. “At the end of the day, I’m so grateful,” she says, smiling—not a gap to be seen.