Exceeding expectations: FDU student forms charity for class project

delgado2Above: As part of a class project, FDU student Dr. Alejandro Delgado formed a nonprofit called Smiles Without Limitations to promote oral health in his home country of Columbia. He is pictured at left with classmates Wilson Agudelo, Adriana Pena and Ruby Escobar who volunteered with the charity. (Photos courtesy of Alejandro Delgado).

 

Interview by Emily Potrzuski

Dr. Alejandro Delgado, a 38-year-old dentist from Santander de Quilichao, Colombia, is pursuing his Master of Administrative Science degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University as part of the Puerta al Futuro program. In 2015, Delgado took Marketing Social Change, a class in which students were assigned to do a project on one of their social change passions. Going above and beyond the class requirements, Delgado decided to launch his 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Smiles Without Limitations.

Delgado was inspired to found this organization when he met members of a Columbian foundation called Fundacion Semillas de Esperanza Quilichao. Meaning “Seeds of Hope,” the foundation helps people with physical and mental disabilities, and while there were physical therapy options and wheelchairs available to members, the program lacked an oral health element. Delgado decided to found Smiles Without Limitations to fill that void.

Recently, Delgado gave an interview about his FDU experience, Smiles Without Limitations, and his goals for the future.

 

delgadoFDU: What made you pursue dentistry?

Alejandro Delgado: From the time I was very young, I always had an interest in dentistry. It was so interesting and I found dental care and its several divisions to be very fascinating. My dentist was very close to my family and gave me the opportunity to volunteer and observe at his practice. In 1997, I applied to a dental school in Columbia and had the honor of being accepted into the program. Upon graduation, I was granted a one-year residency with the Colombian Air Force and then continued to work as a general dentist for several years.

FDU: What brought you to the United States?

AD: It has always been a dream of mine to immigrate to the United States, where I would have the opportunity to learn a new language, explore a new culture and to attend a U.S. school. My dream came true when I was accepted into FDU, so I immigrated to the U.S. and have lived in New Jersey for the last nine years. I was very enthusiastic and excited to pursue my career and to be able to work in the health field in the U.S. I have attended courses and obtained licenses in the dental field. I have taken a course in implants with the Hiossen Implant Research & Education Center as well as some education courses at New York University.

FDU: What drew you to FDU and how long have you attended the university?

AD: I’ve attended the University since 2013 and am still pursing my master’s. I’m a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University through the Puerta al Futuro program. The program enables Spanish-speaking adults to learn English and earn a college degree through progressive all-Spanish to all-English coursework. I majored in business and earned a bachelor’s in individualized studies in 2016. My absolute goal was to continue my studies at FDU and enter the Master of Administrative Science Program, which would allow me to develop and share all of the knowledge that this University offers me, especially in global health and human services administration.

delgado logoFDU: You created the nonprofit during your time in the masters program. Tell us some more about it.

AD: Yes, I created Smiles Without Limitations because of the need for improvement in oral health conditions of disabled people with limitations that compromise their upper motor activity. Our mission is to educate and provide electric toothbrushes to disabled people with physical and mental limitations. Smiles Without Limitations is a New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation — a 501(c)(3) charity. Since I founded it in 2015, Smiles Without Limitations has educated more than 350 people about oral hygiene and has donated more than 90 rechargeable electric toothbrushes to disabled persons.

FDU: How do you educate the community? Have you held any programs or seminars?

AD: Smiles Without Limitations provides education on oral hygiene through the dissemination of facts, charts, graphs, and statistics. This information is provided through lectures and slideshows that take place at daycares, hospitals, and other public venues. We have held seminars at the Hoboken Community Health Fair, the Newark Community Health Fair, the Roselle Park Senior Spirit Day Center, and at the F.U.S.E.S.Q.U.I. and A.S.O.D.I.S.M.O.R. Foundation in Colombia.

FDU: How can members of the FDU community help? Are you taking donations?

AD: Members of the FDU community can help us by donating rechargeable electric toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. If you would like to make a donation, please contact me at dr.delgadov@yahoo.com.