Engineering Sunny Smiles: A Future Dentist Thinks Globally

Senior Jasmine Faldu spreads the word of regular, proper brushing to children in India.

Senior Jasmine Faldu is named NCE's Outstanding Biomedical Engineer

Success in a Snapshot: Senior Jasmine Faldu*, of Barnegat, will be honored tonight at the 2015 NCE Salute to Excellence as NJIT’s outstanding biomedical engineer, while her multi-faceted accomplishments defy simple categorization. The president of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the biomedical engineering honor society, with a nearly 4.0 GPA, Faldu also has excelled in NJIT’s pre-dental track. She scored in the 99.8th percentile on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and secured bids from eight dental schools, choosing the University of Pennsylvania. What is more striking still about Faldu, however, is her determination to ensure her classmates achieve similar success, a goal she has pursued zealously as the president of NJIT’s Pre-Dental Society. A founder of NJIT’s chapter of Project Dental All, she is a global ambassador for oral hygiene who traveled to India for two weeks this year to spread the word of regular, proper brushing to more than 1,000 children.

Singular Accomplishment: Faldu’s messages to members of the Pre-Dental Society typically begin with: “Hello future dentists!” She means it. She has organized the group’s activities to focus intensively on what it takes to go from dental school dreamer to fired-up admitted student. One group meeting might focus on preparation for the DAT, another on interview techniques and correspondence, including e-mail etiquette, and yet another on crafting a personal statement that will set a candidate apart. “You need to really bring it together on the statement – it’s the one opportunity for creativity on the entire application. I had 14 drafts. Before the meeting, we e-mailed students multiple good ones as examples,” she says. Members shadow dentists in the community for a close-up view of the future. “My heart is so into this,” she notes. “I feel really strongly that our students are super candidates – the most prepared – and I love to see NJIT make its mark.” Apparently it will. The five members of the group’s executive board, among other NJIT seniors, are all going to dental school.

Peak Adventure: Faldu grew up in an Indian-American family, making family trips every few years to Gujarat and hearing her relatives speak the regional language to one other. But she had never traveled to India without them, much less negotiated daily life there or spoken Gujarati with strangers – until this past January. As an ambassador for Project Dental All, a non-profit organization that brings dental care training and supplies to communities without them, Faldu flew to Ahmedabad to set out on a two-week tour of elementary schools, orphanages and clinics to dispense the three T’s of oral hygiene: toothbrushes, toothpaste and technique. She was startled to be greeted as a professional with “good morning, madam” by children just a few years younger, but found that all it took with the elementary-school set were a few high-fives to break the ice. “We reached a thousand kids on this trip,” she recounts. “I was so touched by their responsiveness to our lessons and will never forget their innocent wonder – and amusement – when we first opened their boxes of toothpaste and toothbrushes.”

Ambition: Faldu recalls being asked freshman year why a pre-dental student would also take on the rigors of biomedical engineering. It seemed obvious to her. “That was the plan, the goal. The two are connected in so many ways. My concentration in biomaterials will, for example, give me a better understanding of how materials react in the dynamic, aqueous environment of the oral cavity, where there are so many stresses from talking and chewing. But more generally, my training as an engineer has readied me to solve problems and given me an understanding of how mechanisms work, which will help me decide on specific diagnoses for individual patients. There are many avenues for improvement, where technological advances could prove useful in areas such as reconstructive work and implants.” Envisioning a career working with children as a pediatric dentist or an orthodontist, Faldu says she will also “strive to lessen the fears many patients have of going to the dentist.” She plans to continue volunteer work in developing countries, spreading the word of oral hygiene to children and the adults who take care of them. “Since the mouth is considered the gateway to our bodies, poor oral health can cause many negative health conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes to osteoporosis. It is crucial to teach people the importance of oral hygiene and the role taking care of teeth plays in their overall health.  Teaching the simplest lessons – ones we often take for granted like how to brush teeth properly – can ultimately have the power to change a person’s health, body image, and self-esteem.”

By Tracey Regan

tregan@njit.edu

*member of the Albert Dorman Honors College