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Marina Youssef didn’t learn how to use a toothbrush until she was 10 years old.

She grew up in rural Egypt, where oral health wasn’t a priority. People didn’t visit the dentist for preventative care. Often, visits to the dentist were for those who were sick or those who needed tooth extractions.

As a child, Marina developed dental abscesses in her mouth, a bacterial infection in the space between the teeth and gums. By the time she visited the dentist, the abscesses were too far developed which led to her having surgery.

“With kids, dental care can go bad very quickly — it’s not as gradual as it is with adults,” she said. “My abscesses could have been avoided if I had a routine relationship with my dentist.”

Marina and her family moved to the United States when she was 10 years old. That’s when she learned about dental cleanings, routine oral care and how to use a toothbrush.

“I really fell in love with dentistry — I was never exposed to the importance of it, and I don’t want that to happen to others.”

“I grew up with a different view of dental and oral care,” Marina said. “I don’t think most people in the U.S. know that there are countries out there where you may never learn how to use a toothbrush. That’s why I really fell in love with dentistry — I was never exposed to the importance of it, and I don’t want that to happen to others.”

Marina was determined to become a dentist since the seventh grade. In high school, she signed up to attend a vocational charter school for half of each day, and public high school for the other half. She studied oral radiology and learned how to do basic exams and assist during procedures. After she graduated, she passed her oral radiology exam and received her license.

During college, she did internships and worked at a pediatric dentistry office, which sparked her interest in working with kids. She learned about the challenges children face, such as heart problems and cerebral palsy, and how they affect children’s oral health.

Marina also attended a pre-dental program at OHSU. Between the technology, professors and interactions with students, Marina felt at home — and OHSU became her top choice for dental school.

Scholarship support has also helped Marina follow her dream of becoming a dentist. Scholarships are the best available tools to help exceptional OHSU students achieve their career goals, regardless of their financial situation.

“Not only does the scholarship help financially, but it means someone read my story and it made an impact. I felt heard.”

“I was shocked and so thankful to receive a scholarship,” Marina said. “Not only does the scholarship help financially, but it means someone read my story and it made an impact. I felt heard.”

Today, Marina is a second-year dental student with a passion for patient-centered care. She wants to establish a practice that makes everyone feel welcome and to work in a close community, particularly in a rural area. With her dental experience as a child, Marina wants to help guide children and their parents into establishing healthy oral habits.

“I want to build that relationship before I even take a look at their mouth,” she said. “That’s what was missing when I was in Egypt — and having that relationship would have made a huge difference.”