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Fourth-year dental student establishes human rights group

Misbah Muzaffer, a fourth-year student at WVU School of Dentistry, recently established Dental Professionals for Human Rights to help educate and empower fellow students.

“We can effect change on a local and a global level,” Muzaffer said. “In our curriculum, we learn a lot about the struggles within our state, which is important, but sometimes we can forget about other places that can use our help, too.”

The Bluefield native saw the work of the WVU School of Medicine group — Physicians for Human Rights — and she wanted to mirror the effort at the School of Dentistry.

“After talking to faculty, we decided it would be good to start a similar program for dentistry. Rather than Dentists for Human Rights, I wanted to include hygienists, assistants and others in dental professions,” Muzaffer explained.

While geared toward the School of Dentistry, the group is open to everyone with an interest in human rights. For Muzaffer, her interest began when she was just a child.

“My parents are Pakistani,” Muzaffer shared. “From a young age, we would go back to Pakistan and seeing the sheer amount of poverty, just thinking about it brings me to tears. I feel like a lot of times, people say, ‘We need to focus on ourselves.’ Yes, we do, but we’re all in this together. We’re all humans.”

She added, “If we’ve been privileged with something, it’s obligatory for us to give back to the community. Seeing poverty and corruption from a young age really drove me to want to learn as much as I could to gain the skills and knowledge to be useful to other people.”

Muzaffer has always had an interest in helping others, but as an undergraduate, she was able to see the impact of mission trips through her work with the Rotary Club. She learned that at international refugee camps, physicians are often dispatched, but dentists are not sent out at the same capacity, despite the need. This helped steer her decision to enroll in dental school and to one day hopefully help nonprofit organizations that aid refugee camps.

Although COVID-19 has limited in-person events for the human rights group, Muzaffer is still encouraging participation online. To learn more, visit WVU Dental Professionals for Human Rights on Facebook or email Muzaffer at mimuzaffer@mix.wvu.edu.