team and some of their patients. | Spring
break may be a time for kicking back for many students, but for 10
NYUCD students and four faculty members, community service was the
priority this year. During the March break, Dr. Stuart M. Hirsch,
NYUCD’s Associate Dean for Development and International Programs,
led the group on the College’s first outreach mission to Honduras.
There they teamed up with local dentists and dental students from
the Autonomous University of Honduras to screen and treat 531 patients
in an underserved area of this Central American nation.
Third-year NYUCD student Aneta Kozyra-Mejia proposed the eight-day
trip to Dr. Hirsch after learning about the needs of underserved Hondurans
from her brother- and sister-in-law, both of whom practice dentistry
in Honduras. Ms. Kozyra-Mejia worked closely with the Honduran government
to plan the trip.
The outreach team focused its efforts in and around Copan, a town
of 6,000 people that includes a large number of local laborers from
the coffee plantations that dot this lush, mountainous region where
dental care is a luxury few can afford. The team provided basic oral
health care education and performed approximately 300 extractions
and 240 fillings.
Since Copan has no public dental facilities, the team transformed
its city hall into a clinic, hanging bed sheets from the walls to
create separate areas for screenings, fillings, and extractions. In
place of dental chairs, patients sat on white plastic lounge chairs
as the tropical sun streamed through the wood-framed windows of the
Spanish colonial-style building.
The team also visited several outlying areas in an old dental van
donated years ago to Copan by a U.S. church group, but never used
due to a lack of supplies and qualified staff. NYUCD faculty stocked
the van with supplies they brought from New York, and, since the van
had no generator to power its operatories, they hired a local electrician
to connect it to utility poles at each stop.
Associate Dean Hirsch said he hoped to send another mission to Honduras
next year. “The need was so great,” he said, “we could have worked
there forever. And now that our students know the opportunity exists,
I expect that many of them will be interested in going back next spring.”