Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Madelyn Yeh

Mary Gates Leadership Scholar, Winter 2022

Leadership Project: Providing Free Dental Care for Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Project Description: 1 in 10 young adults aged 18-25 experience a form of homelessness over a 12-month period. Certain subpopulations, such as LGTBQ+, black, Hispanic, young-parental youth are disproportionately susceptible to homelessness. Many of these youth face challenges accessing dental care. Specifically, at the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter, most individuals have not had a cleaning in 5 years and are highly susceptible to developing oral diseases and further complications. Many people see the mouth and the body as separate. However, oral health is hugely important to overall health. Having poor oral health at a young age can lead to issues such as decay, infections, and severe pain. My project is to provide dental care and dental education to young adults experiencing homelessness the ROOTS Shelter by partnering with the UW School of Dentistry. Currently, I work with University District Street Medicine (UDSM), an organization at the University of Washington that provides healthcare to individuals experiencing homelessness in the U-District Area. My goal is to expand UDSM’s health services to include dental care. 

What have you learned throughout your leadership project?

I have learned to be confident in my abilities, even if I feel inexperienced at times. When I first started this project, I felt significant “imposter’s syndrome.” However, it is important to remember that you are capable! We, as human beings, will definitely make mistakes. However, it is important to learn, reflect, and bounce back from our experiences. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

When you are planning your project, be sure to have a clear vision for your project!