For a second time in six months, ASDOH students and faculty traveled to Clinica Betel in Atoyac, Mexico, to provide services to the medically underserved residents of this rural town. Eleven dental students, one AEGD resident, and two ASDOH faculty members left Jan. 8 for a seven-day mission trip.
The ASDOH student volunteers became involved because of Tim Lukavsky, D.D.S., assistant professor, ASDOH. This is the 14th year that Dr. Lukavsky has participated in the project sponsored by Latin World Ministries. Eric Harris, D.D.S., ASDOH adjunct faculty member, also participated in the trip.
Upon arriving in Atoyac, a small town located about two hours from Acapulco, students met up with 25 other healthcare professionals including general surgeons, plastic surgeons, optometrists, nurses, and other volunteers from Louisiana and Texas.
“Each day we were up by 7 a.m. and headed to the clinic to be amazed by the line of patients that had been arriving all night to receive treatment,” said ASDOH third-year dental student Tanner Flaherty. Students worked until 8 p.m. each night.
“This trip we were able to bring more students, which allowed us to see more patients and provide more treatment to each patient,” said Flaherty. “It wasn’t uncommon to do five to 10 fillings and one to four extractions on one patient.” Provided treatment included fillings, extraction, partial dentures made into complete dentures, root canal therapy, and cleft palate surgeries.
“One day provided a humbling experience when we saw 20 patients with special needs,” said Flaherty. “One patient that I remember was a little girl with cerebral palsy, and her body was too rigid to sit up in the chair. Her father laid her down in the dental chair. I expected to see a terrified girl, but instead she looked up at me with her big eyes, gave me a big smile, and opened her mouth as big as she could. It was a true pleasure and humbling experience to treat this young girl.”
By the end of the week, the ASDOH group treated 250 patients. “The group of students worked hard and made this a memorable experience,” said Dr. Lukavsky. “My fellow classmates and I were reminded from this experience that that behind every tooth there is a person that appreciates the knowledge and talent we have to provide them with care,” added Flaherty.