Global Service Learning - Brazil

Thanks to a recent university exchange partnership between IUSD and Faculdades Integradas Espírito-Santenses (FAESA) dental school in Espírito Santo, Brazil, students are able to gain unique insight into how international dental schools operate. Trip faculty leader Dr. Capin is a Brazil native, and her deep understanding of the language, local culture, and dental public health assists students to make connections between dental care in the US and Brazil. Before departing for Brazil, students are carefully matched with FAESA dental students living near the school to develop relationships via online social media and virtual meetings. Once in Brazil, IUSD students pair up with their new friends and stay in their homes during the program. This immersive experience on its own greatly increases linguistic and cultural competence and serves as a great introduction to the rest of the trip. In just one week, IUSD students are able to observe and assist FAESA students in oral surgery clinics, participate in case discussions, volunteer alongside dental professionals to provide treatment for special needs patients, attend FAESA lectures, and assist on numerous cases that otherwise wouldn’t be seen in the US in such high concentration. This trip highly emphasizes the ability to work as multidisciplinary teams, a key competency required in dentistry, and IUSD students are exposed to different techniques and perspectives on care they would have no exposure to outside of this specific experience.


“The Brazil Global Service Learning program offered all of us students the opportunity to become truly immersed into a culture vastly different than our own.  Prior to traveling to Brazil, we met for pre-departure meetings where we discussed various topics including demographics, geography, climate, crime and safety of Vitoria, Brazil.  We also compared and contrasted how the FAESA dental program may be different than our own by discussing topics such as when and how the students apply to dental school, the dental school’s curriculum and the students’ clinical experience. This gave us a general overview of the area we would be traveling to and the FAESA dental program.  These pre-departure discussions helped to enhance our intercultural understanding so that when we arrived we could then make a deeper connection with the experience.

IUSD students and their Brazilian hosts

One of the most unique aspects of this program was the opportunity to be hosted by a FAESA dental student. We were also able to interact with many other dental students at dinners and social gatherings that provided a more laid-back environment in which the students openly discussed what it was like to be a dental student in Brazil and they were eager to hear more about our program. Our realization was that even though we did not speak the same first language or share the same culture, we were able to effectively communicate in different ways and we were able to see how similarly we think and interact.  The immersion that took place during this experience has led us to begin to have a deeper understanding of and acceptance for cultures and customs different from our own. In addition to our experiences of being submerged in the culture, we were additionally able to further our education and understanding within the field of dentistry. 


We had many interactions with the students at the FAESA dental clinic.  Not only did this experience provide us with a formal opportunity to discuss clinical similarities and differences, but it also allowed us to see the way in which the dental school operated.  Students were eager to discuss their patient cases and often wanted our thoughts and opinions. We began by assisting in the oral surgery and endodontic clinics, where we matched up with FAESA students and learned various techniques slightly different than our own.  The week continued with us shadowing and assisting in two different special needs clinics. The first was for mild special needs cases and the second was for moderate to severe special needs cases. Both were enlightening for us in that we have little, if any, exposure to treating special needs patients. It was intriguing to observe the way the doctors and dental students provided dental treatment and still kept smiles on the patients’ faces.  Another clinic we were able to attend was an epidermolysis bullosa clinic. This was another eye-opening clinic since it was something we had not encountered in Indiana and our chance of experiencing this in the future is rare. While in the FAESA dental clinic, we were given a lecture on in-office bleaching and, following the lecture, we had the opportunity to then provide in-office bleaching. On our last day, we met with a local dentist to see how a private practice is run in Brazil.  Here we also participated in a resin lab where the doctor showed us the way to properly maneuver resin and how to layer different resins for increased esthetic outcomes.  By the end of the course, we had completed a build-up of a central incisor using his resin techniques.


In addition to our experiences at the dental school clinic and within the private practice office, we had the opportunity to interact with the community at an elementary school in a less fortunate area of the city in which we were located. Here we provided Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) and sealants to children. The kids went through stations where they learned about oral hygiene before being seen for any dental treatment. After all dental treatment was completed, there was a play that had been designed and performed by the FAESA dental students providing an exciting way to again reinforce the dental knowledge that the children learned throughout the day. This experience provided us with familiarity and awareness on the socioeconomic differences in Brazil, as well as the range of oral hygiene knowledge and the differing mindsets toward oral healthcare in this community and among Brazil as a whole.


We all feel that this global service learning experience has enhanced our cultural understanding through the immersion that we encountered.  We have enriched our dental knowledge and skills through the involvement in the different dental experiences discussed and were able to impact the FAESA dental students and professors through sharing information on how dentistry is practiced in Indiana. Additionally, by participating in a wide range of activities throughout the week, we were able to interact with fellow FAESA dental students, professors and the Brazilian community in Vitoria in many different settings, the program granted us with the remarkable opportunity for personal and professional growth.”

Brianne Cipich, Michael Haffner, Matthew Ferguson and Reed McKinney