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Aflame Award Serves as Recognition for IMU Dentistry Student’s Involvement in Community Projects

04 Aug 2020

The Aflame Student Award was created by IMU in 2012 to emphasise, reinforce and enhance the importance of humane principles practices among students of a healthcare school. The award was given to its recipient (s) during the University’s annual University Day celebrations. This year, the award was given at the first ever virtual University Day celebrations on 24 July 2020 at the University’s campus in Bukit Jalil. One of the recipients of the award this year is Karishma Kaur a/p Rajinder Singh Gill, a dentistry student. As a recipient of this award, Karishma was given the opportunity to nominate a beneficiary to receive a donation of RM 2,000. She nominated Dentistry For The Needy which is an organisation that provides free dental treatment to marginalised groups. We managed to catch up with Karishma for this interview.

How did you feel when you were informed that you are the winner of the award?

Surprised, for I hadn’t known such an award existed! But I am also greatly humbled to be acknowledged as such. It was also such a pleasure to share this award with other finalists as this year we were all awarded and recognised for our efforts. I do believe each one of them had impacted society greatly in many ways and truly deserve heaps of blessings. It is very good effort by IMU Cares to recognise and continue to encourage students to volunteer their time for community service and bring a greater impact to the society.

How did you find time for this – dividing your time between this and studies?
People often think you need a lot of time dedicated to do extracurricular activities but in reality, I think it’s just a matter what we choose to prioritise. Some prefer other forms of extracurricular activities such as playing sports, hiking, reading etc. I just chose to use my free time to volunteer. It felt rather second nature to spend my free time as such – serving other has very much been a way of life I have adopted. As a Sikh, we’ve been raised on the concept of Seva which means ‘selfless service’. It involves acting selflessly and helping others in a variety of ways, without any reward or personal gain. Sikhism teaches that Seva is an act of service towards God and therefore must be done regularly in order to become closer to God. From a young age, my parents had raised and blessed my brother and I on the concept of Seva through various activities and chores be it around the house or at a gurdwara (Sikh temple). I first developed the habit of volunteering by performing Seva at our local weekly gurdwara prayers by helping to wash dishes and serve at the langar (community kitchen).

How has IMU helped you in your journey of volunteering while you were studying here? IMU CARES

Though I had my fair share in volunteering outside of my Sikh community through my teenagerhood, it wasn’t until I joined IMU where, I was blessed with many opportunities that allowed my casual hobby of volunteering to become a heartfelt passion. I’m very grateful to IMU Cares and the School of Dentistry for providing platforms for students to gain such invaluable experiences. Many of which were namely by providing oral health care such as dental treatment or oral hygiene education to communities lacking thereof. These community-based experiences served as a valuable setting for me to better understand my role as a healthcare professional in a larger social context. Volunteering with people from various backgrounds allowed me to discover the importance of engaging patients as people – by being open, removing barriers and listening actively. The most treasured lesson I gained from these experiences was how big of an impact we bring through the small things we do for these communities. For example, by simply providing oral health education such as proper brushing/flossing techniques, dietary counselling and oral cancer self-screening, those lacking easy access to dental care would be empowered with the knowledge for their basic needs. This would in turn save their travel time and money whilst improving their quality of life.

Why did you nominate Dentistry For The Needy (DFTN) as the beneficiary for this award?
I nominated Dentistry for The Needy (DFTN) simply because they have successfully combined dentistry with volunteering. They started off from a project “Feed The Needy” to which they realised the recipients of the food did not have good dentition. Currently their target is to be accessible in every state by aiming to have an independent DFTN team for each state to provide free treatment to marginalised groups. Such a big project requires a lot of funding henceforth, I knew they would put the money to great use, if not in short term, definitely for long term.

What are your future plans in continuing your involvement in the community?

Tentatively, I am focused on contributing towards the community by serving in the government for as long as I can in a small town. Simultaneously, I hope to take up any miscellaneous community work projects from readily available groups and organisations. By doing so I hope that one day I can combine my passion for community service with my interest in dentistry to improve awareness and create better access to dental care for low income communities. This is in hopes of preventing detrimental diseases such as oral cancer, caries and periodontitis from affecting the homes of those lacking thereof. In the long term, I hope to create a sustainable NGO in line with community oral health care and needs.

Do you have any final advice to all the other students in IMU?
The core of healthcare is about helping people in need as its essence is human service. I hope all students will take the opportunity to gain experience through volunteering in the community through platforms like IMU Cares, your individual Schools as well as student-led projects through clubs and societies while they are here in IMU. As an avid reader of stoic philosophy, I choose to conclude with my favourite quote from Seneca – “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness”.

We would like to thank Karishma for taking time out of her busy schedule for this interview.

Congratulations, Karishma Kaur!

Related article: International Medical University through the Eyes of a Dental Student

Winners of Aflame Award 2020
Tan Chen Liang Passion for Helping Those in Need Leads to Aflame Award for IMU Medical Student
 Karishma Kaur a/p Rajinder Singh Gill  –
Shinah Saeed
Aflame Award Winner: Exploring More of My Humanitarian Personality

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