Ann Arbor, MI — January 21, 2016 — A second-year dental student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry with a keen interest in sustainability, particularly in health care, has received a fellowship from the Dow Chemical Company for her leadership and desire to work with peers from all disciplines to make health care delivery more sustainable.
Shivani Kamodia is among 40 U-M students awarded $20,000 by the Midland, Michigan-based company to help her pay for her education. The one-time awards are given annually to students pursing a professional degree or a master’s degree. Fellows in the program will participate in a range of interdisciplinary activities and monthly seminars focusing on ways to enhance sustainability.
Last May, Kamodia began an investigation into the amount of waste generated in the school’s preclinic as a part of her Pathways project. Launched in 2010, Pathways allows each dental student to select a special topic of interest in health care delivery, leadership or research and explore that area in depth during their four years of predoctoral education.
By the time she started her dental education at Michigan, Kamodia had developed a portfolio of leadership experiences in sustainability.
“As an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo, I was a sustainability coordinator for campus dining and evaluated and helped improve recycling and composting efforts and also helped create new sustainability programs,” she said. As a student, Kamodia was also president and vice president of the environmental network, so when she came to Michigan, “I knew I wanted my Pathways project to focus on something that involved sustainability,” she says.
Initially, Kamodia searched for information on sustainable dentistry, but says she found little information that was helpful, so she then began to focus on waste audits.
“Evaluating the waste produced in the clinics is the best way to determine not just the level of waste, but also begin thinking about ways to reduce it,” Kamodia says. Working with four undergraduate volunteers and her mentor, Dr. Stephen Stefanac, senior associate dean and associate dean for Patient Services, Kamodia began conducting a series of waste audits in the school’s preclinical laboratory beginning last September.
“I discovered most waste in the preclinic came from three sources: gloves, face masks, and paper,” she says. “In fact, the number of gloves used in one three-hour preclinic practical course ranged from 267 to 757.” Kamodia says she then approached Terracycle, a company that collects difficult to recycle products and transforms them into innovative products. Terracycle has recycled toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss containers for one company for nearly six years. Terracycle says that virtually all of the materials it receives are turned into plastic pellets and sold to manufacturers who want to include recycled plastic in their products including lumber, garbage cans, recycling bins, picnic tables, benches, bike racks and more.
Kamodia has placed three of the company’s “Zero Waste Boxes” in the preclinic. She adds that she plans to do another round of waste audits when new dental students arrive in June. Kamodia hopes the data she has collected about waste generated in the preclinic will enable her to take on a bigger project – redirecting and reducing waste in the school’s four comprehensive care clinics. “I’m looking forward to having opportunities to create sustainable solutions that will benefit the school and the university,” she says.