AUGUSTA — Dr. Jonathan Shenkin recently received a grant that will enable him to return to his ancestor’s home country and make life better for those who need it. Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in central Maine, and advocate for oral and general health, has been awarded a Fulbright Specialist Program grant in public/global health. The grant will allow Shenkin to spend two weeks in the Eastern European country of Belarus this spring, developing strategies and curriculum for Belarusian State dental facility on how to train pediatricians about the oral health of children younger than three, according to a news release from Dan Cashman of Cashman Communications.

“I am honored to be able to give back to a country where my family is so deeply rooted,” said Shenkin in the release. “The dental system in Belarus is state-funded so children receive dental care in clinics for free. The next step in Belarus is to focus on better preventing oral disease, which has been something I have worked on here for years. My hope is that we can put a system in place to focus on prevention that might transcend into other countries and regions around the world.”

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus’ population is about 9.5 million, with most people living in urban areas. Shenkin will be based in Minsk, Belarus’ capital and largest city.

“One of the biggest challenges in Belarus, and in most countries, is that kids under 3 don’t see a dentist,” said Shenkin in the release. “This is a challenge that I will work with pediatricians to improve their oral health literacy, so they understand what leads to poor health outcomes, not just how to fix them. It’s not just about putting more drills in kids’ mouths — that’s not a solution. The solution is prevention, identifying early signs of disease, proper use of fluoride to reduce risk, dietary enhancements, and educating parents about oral health for their kids.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program promotes linkages between U.S. scholars and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas, and is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Shenkin practices pediatric dentistry in Augusta, and is also a clinical associate professor of health policy, health services research and pediatric dentistry at Boston University, and first vice president for the American Dental Association.