“Brush” With Greatness

This coming Friday night Boise State plays UNLV here in Boise.  To find out a few things about the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, I checked out their official website.  Right there on the homepage I found their slogan:  “We are different.”

Actually, there’s more to it than that.  In total, the slogan is “We are different, we are daring, we are diverse.”  Reading on, I found the story of a student who I think qualifies as a little bit different.  He might even be daring.  But in terms of the American public, he’s not particularly diverse.  His name is Hunter Davidson, and he looks like the picture you might see in the dictionary next to the words “white guy”.

But Hunter cares about people in general.  He’s a student at the UNLV Law School, which, like their football stadium, is named after the family of early casino mogul Sam Boyd.

Since he’s in law school, Hunter obviously is a grad student.  But unlike most grad students, he’s currently working on two degrees at once.  Besides his JD, he’s also going for a Master’s in Business Administration.  And that seems like a good idea, because he’s already the chief executive officer of a business, albeit a non-profit.  The business is called Operation Brush.  When I first heard the name, I thought it must have something to do with his quest for a law degree, and I decided it was probably a play on the phrase “brush with the law”.  It wasn’t.

Operation Brush has the goal of manufacturing environmentally friendly toothbrushes and making them available in parts of the world where brushing your teeth isn’t even a common practice.

A couple of years ago, Hunter took a class in the economics of developing nations, or those places we often refer to as third world countries.  In the class he discovered that there are about three-and-a-half billion people on earth who don’t have a toothbrush.  That’s about half the planet.

Hunter and his best friend, a student named Dane Jonas, studied the subject and discovered that oral hygiene actually had a lot to do with changing those developing nations from places with maximum suffering to something more livable.

According to Hunter, poor oral hygiene leads to tooth decay and gum disease.  Most people know that.  What people don’t know generally is that tooth decay and gum disease actually lead to cancer, diabetes, memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and premature births.

Through Operation Brush, Hunter obtains products from a Florida company called Woo Bamboo and sends them to places like Costa Rica, Haiti, Kenya and Thailand.  He says toothbrushes made from bamboo work just as well as plastic ones, and they don’t add problems to the environment.

Hunter’s next goal is something on which he’s already working.  He’s joined with a few science professors and students at UNLV to work on inventing biodegradable floss that comes from biodegradable containers.

He says he’s learned a lot about world poverty in the past two years, and admitted that right now, every toothbrush he ships out to developing countries includes a set of instructions.  He points out that in America, most of us are taught to use a toothbrush when we’re toddlers, but in developing nations it’s easy to find teenagers who’ve never even seen a toothbrush.

I salute the work that Hunter Davidson does, and for just a moment it made me wonder what he’s doing at Nevada-Las Vegas, a place that seems a long way, physically and metaphorically, from Costa Rica and Kenya.

And that reminded me once again that you can’t pigeon-hole people.  Nobody is just one thing.  Hunter Davidson, the non-profit guru who cares about the oral hygiene of the world, plans to run his organization as long as he can, but he’s also specializing in entertainment and sports law.  That’s right.  One day, Hunter Davidson hopes to be a bloodsucking agent.  And for those people, Las Vegas is Mecca.