Fourth-year DMD Student Elective: Colombia

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The Sinclair Travel Fellowship Program has once again provided a unique educational and socially diverse opportunity for two DMD students selected to participate on this elective.

Read the article “Group Mission to Colombia—An Outstanding Experience for Dental Students

This was the second year of the Sinclair Travel Fellowship Program which supports the UBC Dentistry fourth-year travel elective. In April 2012, DMD 2012 candidates Melissa Milligan and Kathryn Hunter, along with Dr. Bill Brymer, Clinical Assistant Professor at UBC Dentistry, joined volunteer students and dentists from the Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California (USC), in their volunteer dental program in collaboration with Ayuda Inc.

Ayuda is a not for profit organization focused on providing free dental care to underserved communities and was developed by Dr. Harris Done, a USC faculty member.

Then fourth-year dental students Melissa Milligan (L) and Kathryn Hunter are seen with Dr. Dr. Arjang Nowtash, President of Sinclair Dental and Dr. Bill Brymer (R), Clinical Assistant Professor and Clinical Group Advisor, UBC Dentistry.

Then fourth-year dental students Melissa Milligan (L) and Kathryn Hunter are seen with Dr. Dr. Arjang Nowtash, President of Sinclair Dental and Dr. Bill Brymer (R), Clinical Assistant Professor and Clinical Group Advisor, UBC Dentistry.


UBC Dentistry is grateful to Dr. Arjang Nowtash and Sinclair Dental for their support of this extremely valuable student elective.


The team travelled to Cartagena, Colombia, where they treated 845 patients in a local barrio of 13,000 people.

The group of 60 individuals included USC dental students from years one through four, two dental hygienists, volunteer dentists including pediatric specialists, USC faculty members, two UBC dental students, a UBC faculty member and a University of Toronto faculty member.

Reflections

Kathryn HunterKathryn Hunter DMD 2012: This experience exceeded our expectations in every way. We were absolutely impressed by the level of organization and teamwork the students and faculty demonstrated even though we were working with huge disadvantages given the portable aspect of the clinic and the climate.

During clinic days there was a special focus on young patients and their dental problems. I certainly learned a great deal through screening 50 children under the age of five in just one morning including the ability to prioritise quickly as a dental professional.

At one time I was also assigned to the anaesthesia station and for several hours I was giving children needles to anesthetise them before being treated. At first I was convinced all the children hated me but I was very surprised and delighted to have many of them offering me hugs and saying “gracias” once their treatment was completed.

My most emotional moment occurred when I was on the bus leaving the clinic for the day. I spotted one little boy that was very upset earlier when I was extracting some decayed teeth for him. When he saw me a huge smile came over his face and he waved. I was ecstatic!

We all learned some valuable lessons on this visit and it was a privilege to work with our Ayuda colleagues and provide such wonderful service for the community. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to learn and make a difference in a very unique way.

Melissa MilliganMelissa Milligan DMD 2012: This experience exceeded our expectations in every way. We were absolutely impressed by the level of organization and teamwork the students and faculty demonstrated even though we were working with huge disadvantages given the portable aspect of the clinic and the climate.

During clinic days there was a special focus on young patients and their dental problems. I certainly learned a great deal through screening 50 children under the age of five in just one morning including the ability to prioritise quickly as a dental professional.

At one time I was also assigned to the anaesthesia station and for several hours I was giving children needles to anesthetise them before being treated. At first I was convinced all the children hated me but I was very surprised and delighted to have many of them offering me hugs and saying “gracias” once their treatment was completed.

My most emotional moment occurred when I was on the bus leaving the clinic for the day. I spotted one little boy that was very upset earlier when I was extracting some decayed teeth for him. When he saw me a huge smile came over his face and he waved. I was ecstatic!

We all learned some valuable lessons on this visit and it was a privilege to work with our Ayuda colleagues and provide such wonderful service for the community. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to learn and make a difference in a very unique way.

Bill BrymerDr. Bill Brymer: As a UBC Dentistry faculty member this remarkable program gave me another unique glimpse in how to be a better teacher. A key discovery on this visit was being more open to letting the student draw their own conclusions and reflections on the care provided and not completely remove them from the actual decision-making process.

One third-year student had an especially empowering experience through making their own decision to re-do a filling three times before it was done correctly. Instead of stepping in and giving specific instructions through the procedure I discovered that having the student point out what he was seeing and developing his own solutions was a far more productive learning experience. This was in addition to the challenging operational pressures each day and the clinic environment—35c temperatures and 100% humidity was a common theme.

The patient was of course very grateful for the time and care taken to ensure the procedure was done correctly. The student also thanked me personally for allowing him to make his own discoveries while knowing advice was always close by if needed.

This experience in Colombia was memorable and life changing for the entire team. I feel privileged to have witnessed the incredible impact on the community and what this type of experience provides students in terms of clinical expertise and the difference they can make through their profession as global citizens.