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Special School District of St. Louis County

Translating Smiles

South Technical High School graduate finds success

Being able to understand an orthodontic patient talk while he or she has a mouth full of dental equipment is difficult enough. But when the patient speaks an entirely different language—it’s even harder.

Nadja Basic, however, has helped to break down this barrier. A 2012 graduate of South Technical High School’s Dental Science program, Nadja brings a unique set of skills to the orthodontist office where she works. Along with her dental training, she also serves as a translator in the office. Fluent in both English and Bosnian, she helps several Bosnian-speaking patients understand the doctor, and vice versa.

“It’s not a big deal to me, but I do find it to be unique,” Nadja said. “I haven’t seen a lot of places looking for something like this in an office.”

Nadja is a receptionist and orthodontic assistant at Orthocare Systems Orthodontics. Since she started working there this summer, she has been learning all aspects of an orthodontist office—from checking in and billing patients, to consultations with patients and patients’ families. She’s in the process of earning her full certification as an assistant, which will allow her to do even more procedures on patients.

But it is her translating abilities that make her stand out in the office.

“We had a few Bosnian patients,” said Dr. Glenn Glassman, founder of Orthocare Systems. “We were looking, specifically, for someone who could speak Bosnian as well as have some dental background and skills.”

Nadja fit the bill perfectly.

“We’ve hired from other schools, but we tested her and found her skills to be exceptional,” Glassman said. “She assists me when I do my orthodontic presentations to the patients by clarifying and interpreting things. The patients really love her.”

Nadja came to the United States 14 years ago. She attended schools in the Mehlville School District as well as South Tech, where she learned the skills that prepared her for her current position.

“I think South Tech does a very good job with hand-on things,” Nadja said. “I think that was the best part—all the equipment and supplies that we can use there.”

Nadja also credits South Tech for preparing her to find employment after leaving school.

“Our teachers talked about all the different opportunities in our field,” Nadja said. “It was mandatory to learn how to make résumés, and the counselors there helped us in finding jobs and looking for more classes we could take.”

One thing that the Dental Science program didn’t prepare Nadja for was the Bosnian translation of technical dental terminology.

“I keep a cheat sheet for that,” Nadja admitted. “I learn something new every day. Most of all, I like dealing with patients and making them happy and having them see the results.”

When it comes to orthodontics, the resulting smiles are important. And Nadja helps make patients smile in more ways than one.

Nadja Basic
Nadja Basic

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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