On July 14, we announced our Delta Dental Community Care Foundation 2020 Student Leadership Award winners. These graduating dental students exemplify our value of service, and we are proud to provide support as they embark on their careers. Yuliya Petukhova from the University of Utah School of Dentistry understands first-hand what it means to lack access to oral health care. We spoke with Yuliya about how she has taken her childhood experiences, as well as her passion for art, and used them to shape her future.

Yuliya stands and smiles with the president of the university at a volunteer event
Yuliya with Dr. Ruth Watkins, President of the University of Utah at a volunteer event

What are your plans for the future? 

I am currently attending an oral surgery residency and am most interested in studying oncology and TMJ surgeries. Once I finish my program, I would like my career to be a mix of academia and hospital work. 

Can you talk about the importance of service in your life?

I am originally from Russia. When I immigrated to the United States as a child, I was part of a population with no access to care. I experienced the lack of medical and dental treatment opportunities while growing up in the U.S. and was committed to giving back as part of my career.       

Early in our dental school training, we were exposed to a community clinic that was in dire need of assistance to deliver dental care to the public, with limited funds to provide treatment. I am an artist. I try to find ways to make use of my artistic ability in all parts of my life – even when doing restorative work on patients. I created a project, Art to Restoring Teeth (A.R.T.), with a goal to help raise funds for the treatment of patients at this clinic. I drew and painted in exchange for monetary contributions going towards this clinic; I funded a pediatric service day the summer of 2019, where my colleagues and I delivered complimentary dental care to children in our community. 

I aspire to be available for every patient that needs me and not turn anyone away. I believe my training in dental school and in residency will provide a skillset that can be applied in humanitarian efforts locally and internationally.

What does it mean to you to be recognized as a Delta Dental Student Leader?

It is a great honor to be recognized as a recipient of the Delta Dental award. My ability to pursue higher education was questioned by myself and others. To know that I have succeeded in obtaining a doctorate and am working on my second – while being recognized for my achievements with such a prestigious prize – is incredibly rewarding. It gives me confidence in pursuit of my current educational endeavor. Anything and everything is possible, and efforts do not go unnoticed. I am honored and humbled to have been selected. Thank you.