Buddhism and Volunteerism Led Student to Dentistry

05/27/03    Portland, Ore.

Bryce Evans was providing free dental care to villagers in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico when an old man arrived needing to have three of his five remaining teeth pulled. "They were difficult extractions," Evans said. "I felt bad for him, but it went fine. He walked away and I didn't see him again."

That is, not until the drive out of town to return to Portland, when Evans noticed a man sitting against a stucco building wearing a big hat -- the classic Mexican postcard image. It was his patient. "He threw me a big smile showing his two remaining teeth and waved good-bye," Evans said.

Evans will be among the more than 850 graduates at Oregon Health & Science University's 2003 Commencement scheduled for Wednesday, June 4, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland.

Evans has visited Mexico three times with Northwest Medical Teams, a Portland-based humanitarian organization that sends professionals to volunteer in communities that lack regular health care. Such opportunities to bring his skills to people in distant places are a major reason Evans decided on dental school. Another key influence is his father, Barry Evans, a dentist in Portland, with whom Bryce has volunteered in Mexico.

A Buddhist studies program in India set the stage for Evans' dentistry career. He attended the six-month program as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon in Eugene. It gave him the idea that he could practice and see the world at the same time. "I was looking for (a skill) I was interested in and could take out of the country," Evans said. With dentistry, he decided, he could even set up his own clinic abroad, perhaps in India.

He chose OHSU School of Dentistry for its proximity to home and its reputation for providing students with excellent clinical skills. As an advanced student in the doctor of dental medicine program, Evans works in the main clinic on campus every day. One of his rotations was at the Russell Street Clinic in Portland, which serves low-income patients.

Evans found his volunteer experience in rural Mexico to be good preparation for his future career. "We go to a different village every day," he said. "They've only gotten roads and electricity in the last 10 years. We load donkeys with equipment and hike in. People would be waiting for us. It's pretty fun."

###