Last week, they competed just as fiercely, with a 6-3 win for NJMS. But off the ice, students from both schools join together annually on a Rutgers dental mission called Smiles Across Bangladesh. Funded by the Rutgers Foundation, the trip allows medical and dental students to collaborate on cleft lip and palate surgery for villagers overseas.
This is the first time the charity hockey game, held March 31 at the New Jersey Devils practice rink in Newark, has benefitted a Rutgers-related program, let alone one that allows students to join forces. In the past, the game – which pits the NJMS Medwings against the RSDM Bitewings – has raised money to help Hurricane Sandy victims and fight pediatric cancer. So far, the student teams have raised more than $8,500 for the mission, which is accepting donations here.
“When this started, we set what we thought was an unreachable fundraising goal of $5,000, just so that it seemed we were challenging ourselves,” said Krutyansky. “In actuality, we expected maybe a few thousand if we were lucky. Every year we have been able to make this more elaborate. In the four years since I’ve been here, we’ve raised $48,000.”
The Bangladesh mission was started in 2006 by Dr. Shahid Aziz, an RSDM oral and maxillofacial surgeon and native of Bangladesh. Since then, his team helped more than 1,000 patients who’ve endured a condition that, in wealthier nations, is easily repaired with a 60-minute surgical procedure.
In the U.S., the cleft lip and palate surgery is common and almost always performed on infants. But in Bangladesh, only about 30 surgeons in the country can repair cleft palates, and Aziz estimates that there are more than 300,000 people with the condition. “There’s a tremendous need,” he said. “I am very grateful for the initiative taken by the organizers of the hockey game. The work in Bangladesh demonstrates how our university makes a difference globally.”
Said co-organizer Artem Krutyansky of the RSDM Bitewings, “A big reason we chose this is because it really fits the definition of interdisciplinary work.’’
NJMS student Joe Ippolito, also an organizer, said the teams chose a Rutgers charity to celebrate the university’s 250th anniversary. “We wanted to focus our efforts internally on a worthy cause that also benefitted our students.’’
The hockey game is the only joint event between RSDM and NJMS and team members wanted to develop a stronger relationship between the two. “It’s the one thing we have where we have fun together, network and connect,’’ said Ippolito.
This year, the Medwings won the hockey game, but Krutyansky feels optimistic that RSDM can make a comeback next year. In fact, there are plans for students from both schools to organize a week-long competitive tournament that will involve basketball games, indoor soccer and other sports, in addition to ice hockey.
“We want to expand it and make it even bigger,’’ said Krutyansky.
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