For Kyla Hollen, DMD, ’10, MPH, ’11, giving back to the community has always been part of her DNA. She grew up in a small town that emphasized the pursuit of education and public service.

As an ATSU-ASDOH student from 2006-10, Dr. Hollen was exposed to many community service events, one of which was the American Dental Association’s Give Kids A Smile. This popular hands-on, student-driven event was a significant highlight of her student experience.

“As a student, not only did the event provide a valuable service to the community, but also raised much needed awareness about unmet oral health needs facing our community on the local and national level,” says Dr. Hollen.

According to a 2015 survey released by the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than half of Arizona’s kindergarten children have a history of tooth decay – higher than the national average for 5-year-old children. Consequently, when Dr. Hollen and her husband, Christopher Chin, DMD, MPH, ’10, moved to Tucson for her pediatric dental residency, they knew the community was a perfect fit.

“The dental community in Arizona and greater Tucson area provided us with so much support and opportunity for professional growth,” says Dr. Hollen. “My husband had plenty of options, but I decided to proceed with a start-up practice.”

Although she says making the decision to establish her own practice was scary, she says she couldn’t be happier. In her pediatric dental facility, a beach theme camouflages what would otherwise look like a traditional dental office. Surfboards, oars, and an elaborate underwater sea life mural embellish the walls, creating a welcoming and child-friendly environment.

Since Tucson did not previously have a centralized comprehensive care event, Dr. Hollen decided to host her own Give Kids A Smile in February. She recruited 29 volunteers including her husband and fellow ATSU-ASDOH peer, Charles Brown III, DMD, ’14. Dr. Hollen also organized the support of several sponsors and community partners to maximize her impact. Together, they were able to deliver much-needed dental care to 43 children yielding $30,000 in services and $9,000 in post-treatment care.

Dr. Hollen says, “I love the freedom to create a schedule where I can contribute to organized dentistry with the Arizona Dental Association, organize meaningful community events, and work part time with the pediatric dental residency program in Tucson, where we occasionally host rotating ATSU-ASDOH students.”

For ATSU graduates, commencement is a rite of passage that marks immense accomplishment, a new beginning, and a new career. For Dr. Hollen, it also means carrying on the legacy of her experience as a student and keeping her community smiling.


mentor

Joie Harrington, her childhood neighbor in Newport, Oregon

Harrington was a public health nurse and provided a foundation for Dr. Hollen’s appreciation of public health and serving the community.