Students to bring dental services abroad
UMD Global Dental Brigade members to travel to Honduras in January with U. of Wisconsin-Madison chapter
By Annika McGinnis/The Diamondback
Published September 26, 2012
In America, getting a tooth pulled isn’t usually cause for celebration.
But in poor, rural Honduras, the possibility of seeing a dentist has people lining up for hours at a time. This January, about 20 students in the recently formed UMD Global Dental Brigades will see it for themselves when they travel to Honduras for a week with American dentists to provide free dental services.
“The places we’re going to, the nearest dentist office is like a day away, hours and hours and hours away,” said junior kinesiology major Danial Dadkhoo, the fundraising vice president. “No one has access to anything.”
The new chapter is part of the International Global Brigades, which runs student volunteer programs in Honduras, Panama and Ghana in fields such as medicine, architecture, law and business. This winter, Maryland students will work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Medical Brigades chapter.
The group will set up mobile dental clinics — essentially, large tents — in rural communities, Dadkhoo said. For about five hours each day, students will help four dentists (three American, one Honduran) with fillings, cleanings, fluoride treatments and extractions on orphaned children, the officers said.
For these children, Dadkhoo said, the services are invaluable.
In rural Honduras, four out of five people don’t have access to dental care, Global Brigades reported. Senior biology major Sam Demarco, who’s considering going on the trip, said she saw the problem on a school-building trip in Honduras.
“It was crazy. There would be 4-year-olds running around, and they had cavities everywhere,” Demarco said.
If sick teeth aren’t treated, the infections can spread to other areas of the body, she added.
Students will be giving out dental supplies and educating children on caring for their teeth, Dadkhoo said.
“We’re going to make up games and skits, make it fun for them,” Dadkhoo said. “We’re going to teach them; ‘How do you brush your teeth? How do you floss?’”
Dadkhoo said so far, three American dentists will attend: Mitra Fard of Rockville, Fedra Witting of Annapolis and Mark Hochberg of New York. And since they’ll be abroad, he said, students will get hands-on experience with procedures only licensed dentists can do in the United States.
“When you shadow, you’re really limited for what you can and cannot do,” Dadkhoo said. “Like after a procedure, I’m not the one telling the patient, ‘Hey, take this medication every six hours; do this and this; don’t do this.’”
But in Honduras, Dadkhoo said students will have much more responsibility.
That’s exactly the kind of impact senior biology major Monica Ashok was hoping for when she founded this university’s Global Dental Brigades chapter last summer at the suggestion of her best friend, the president of this university’s Global Medical Brigades chapter.
This university had many medical service groups, such as Global Medical Brigades, but no dental ones, Ashok said. So, over the summer, Ashok built her organization from the ground up: selecting officers, contacting an adviser in Honduras, leading fundraising efforts and asking dentists to donate or come along.
Witting, who’s been a dentist for 22 years, said she’s been on about 10 similar trips but never before with students. She found the students’ enthusiasm refreshing, and she said participating on these trips gives her a “high” because of the generous people she’s surrounded by.
“It puts things in perspective — you’re incredibly grateful for what you have at home,” she said. “It becomes like an addiction; you start to crave it.”
Ashok said 15 to 20 students can come on the trip, and only about 10 spots are left. Applications are due Oct. 4, but the group is accepting volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Sahar Nesvaderani, who has already worked as a dental assistant for three years, said attending this trip is the last thing she wants to “get off her checklist.”
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years,” the senior behavioral and community health major said. “At the dental office I was working at, I spent so much time just educating kids about proper dental health care. I honestly really enjoyed that, so being able to go to underprivileged and underserved countries and do that would make me the happiest person in the world.”