Instructor Spotlight: Chidilim Menakaya and Yenna Chu

The ExCollege caught up with the two co-teachers of 'But What About the Mouth?': Chidilim Menakaya and Yenna Chu.
Chidilim Menakaya and Yenna Chu

ExPress: What inspired you to teach this topic?

Chidilim Menakaya: I was inspired to teach this topic because, along my journey as a pre-dental, I have noticed how often the mouth is left out of conversations regarding health, which is particularly interesting, considering the mouth’s role as a major entry point of bacteria into the body. There is so much to learn about the historic divide between dentistry and medicine, and I’m looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm about the topic while also learning from our students throughout the semester!

Yenna Chu: Before coming to Tufts, I knew I wanted to explore and learn about the field of healthcare. Little did I know how broad and interdisciplinary this field was. Through courses I have taken so far at Tufts, I’ve learned that it is so important to view and approach healthcare and its verticals through an interdisciplinary lens. This is something that I wish I had known as an incoming first-year student. While exploring the disciplines within healthcare, an area that I have personally gained interest in is the often-forgotten field of oral health. Due to the distinct separation between dental and medical care, many individuals, especially those of underserved populations, face significant barriers to accessing proper oral health care. The topic of this course came into creation for first-year students to learn about the various intersections found in healthcare by looking at oral health through an interdisciplinary lens.

ExPress: What is one thing you hope students take away from your class?

CM: I hope that our course encourages students to be critical of current systems and to not simply accept things as they are just because they have always been that way. While our course focuses on gaps in the US healthcare system, the questions that we’ll be exploring can be applied to students’ different interests, and I really hope that our course ultimately inspires students to be inquisitive about the world around them.

YC: Oral health should never be left out when thinking of our overall health and the healthcare field!

ExPress: What are you most excited about for our first class?

CM: For the first class, we’ve asked students to listen to some TED talks and bring a quote that stuck out to them for a “Silent Discussion” activity. I’m looking forward to hearing students’ initial thoughts on our topic and seeing how they begin to interact with one another in this unique way.

YC: I’m most excited about connecting with my students and building a community where we meet to not only learn about the mouth and its importance to our lives but to also learn and grow with one another during our time together!

Chidilim (she/her) is a senior majoring in biology and minoring in dance on the pre-dental track. Her hometown is Somerset, New Jersey. On campus, she is involved in Tufts Timmy Global Health, Tufts DREAM Village Mentoring, and Harlem Grooves.

Yenna (she/her) is a senior pursuing an interdisciplinary studies major in biomedical sciences, public health, and entrepreneurship. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Yorktown, Virginia. At Tufts, she’s a part of organizations including the Tufts Human Factors Lab, Tufts Healthcare Entrepreneurship, Tufts Biology Research, and Tufts Mountain Club.