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LSU Health New Orleans Dental Student a Natural Leader

Puerto Rico Maria destruction

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Leslie Capo

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Jeffrey Kerst, a third-year DDS student at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry, is one of two vice presidents just elected by the American Student Dental Association’s (ASDA) House of Delegates during its annual meeting in Anaheim. He is a member of the Board of Trustees, which governs this national student-run organization representing more than 24,000 dental students in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and 3,000 pre-dental members.

This is just the latest of Kerst’s leadership positions. He was the District 5 Trustee on the Board, where he was the liaison between ASDA and the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. He also served as a student delegate to the ADA Annual Session.

When Kerst was a trustee, one of the dental schools he represented was at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in San Juan. After Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017, Kerst rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

“In working with the student leaders at UPR, we were able to raise nearly $4,000 through student efforts, which paid for weeks of provided meals for them as they returned to school, and we secured over $70,000 in donations through our collaboration with the ADA,” Kerst notes. “At LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry, our chapter raised $1,000 with a dunking booth supplied by our Alumni Association at one of our TGIFs. Four faculty members volunteered to get all wet for the cause, and it was a great success.”

Jeffrey Kerst
Giving back is nothing new to Kerst, an Arkansas native and Eagle Scout. Two years ago, he and fellow University of Arkansas student Marco Gargano co-founded Natural Teeth. Natural Teeth is a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping people smiling with their natural teeth by teaching elementary school children how to take care of their mouths and instilling good oral health habits for a lifetime. Kerst continues to serve as its Chief Operations Officer, and although it is based in Arkansas, Natural Teeth has also benefitted children in New Orleans.

“We've taught a few thousand children in the past two years and have partnerships with major corporations, including Delta Dental of Arkansas,” says Kerst.

dental mission trip
It seems Kerst’s commitment to service knows no bounds or boundaries. During summer vacations the last two years, he has made dental mission trips to the Dominican Republic to help provide dental care to many who would otherwise go without. It also seems that his leadership ability comes naturally. Kerst served as Team Leader on the mission trip last summer.

“In running for Vice President, I wanted to be able to give back to ASDA what the association has given me as we move toward developing leadership training that is second-to-none for dental students,” adds Kerst. “We hope that our efforts to do so will be invaluable as future practitioners and leaders in our communities.”

And the community that will benefit from Kerst’s leadership is right here in Louisiana.

“My plans are to practice general dentistry in north Louisiana around Shreveport, LA after graduation,” says Kerst.

ASDA leadership