In a change of scene from their busy lives as dental school students and educators, representatives from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry spent their spring break volunteering overseas. At sites in the Dominican Republic, Chile, and Fiji, 49 students, six faculty, and two alumni provided dental treatment to local residents during the last week of March. Nearly $500,000 of treatment and materials were donated.
Fifteen students accompanied Dr. Eric Salmon, Group Practice Administrator, to the Monte Cristi area of the Dominican Republic to provide dental care for hundreds of children and adults. The group organized the trip through the nonprofit group Orphanage Outreach, which provides opportunities to orphaned children and disadvantaged families in the northwest area of the Dominican Republic. Would-be patients waited up to six hours to see the volunteer dentists and students, who treated them using portable equipment at various sites. Extractions were the most common procedure performed, but the volunteer team was also able to complete more complicated procedures including an anterior esthetic case.
In another corner of the world, Fiji, 32 students, faculty, and alumni volunteered their dental services at a three-operatory clinic in the village of Moala. The trip, spearheaded by Class of 2010 students Judy Chau, Jack Gorman, Joyce J. Kahng, and Jessica Wilson, treated hundreds of villagers, many who had not seen a dentist since a group of Dugoni students, faculty, and alumni visited the area in 2008.
While in Fiji, students and faculty completed extractions, full mouth scaling and root planning, endodontic treatments, denture repairs, and subsequent oral hygiene instruction. The team provided $344,650 worth of treatment in five days.
Dr. Allen Wong, Director of the Special Care Clinic, and several students also gave a presentation about Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) and minimally invasive dentistry to students and faculty at the Fiji School of Medicine. While there, students and faculty received a tour, met with school leaders, and discussed future plans for collaboration.
"Our visit to the Fiji dental school was memorable and serendipitous," commented Dr. Wong. "The Fijian hospitality was contagious. I look forward to working with this school in the future, and helping the administration implement CAMBRA into their curriculum."
Lastly, two Dugoni School of Dentistry students traveled to Chile to participate in a trip organized by Operation Tooth Fairy, an international organization that provides orthodontic and dental care for children with facial and dental birth defects. Class of 2010 students Stephen Arnason and Alex Assatourians spent five days helping provide care for dozens of underprivileged Chileans.
Although this is their time off from the rigors of school, the volunteers find their work on these trips rewarding and worthwhile.
"I am extremely proud of these volunteers," remarked Dr. Salmon. "They did an incredible amount of grueling work, including heavy lifting and crowd control, in addition to treating patients. What they did is absolutely amazing."
He adds, "The patients we see on these mission trips are frequently in constant pain and dire need of relief, and also tend to be some of the kindest people you could hope to meet. To be able to provide dental care and education to them is an incredibly gratifying experience."