The NYUCD–Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach to Alaska has added two new schools to its program, which visited the Arctic Circle in April 2010. The dental schools at the University of Washington and Loma Linda University joined NYUCD and the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health to implement a program aimed at achieving a sustainable reduction in dental caries in areas where the caries rate is more than twice as high as anywhere else in the United States.
The addition of the dental schools at Loma Linda University and the University of Washington brought the total number of students and faculty participating in the 2010 mission to 30, more than double the number who traveled to Alaska in 2009. NYUCD and Arizona also substantially increased their presence in 2010.
With a larger team in place, organizers extended the mission to 16 days in 2010 from 8 in 2009; more than doubled the number of villages served, to five from two; and increased the number of children treated to 165 from 87.
In Alaska, as in other locations where the NYUCD-Henry Schein Cares model of sustainable care has been implemented, the outreach team set up temporary clinics in local schools and health clinics, provided the children with oral health education, screenings, fluoride varnishes, sealants, restorative treatments, and extractions, and trained teachers and local healthcare workers to reapply the varnishes at three-month intervals. Emergency care was also provided to 140 adults.
The Alaska mission covers a much broader territory than is customary for NYUCD–Henry Schein Cares outreaches. Snow-packed mountain ranges encircle the region's tiny villages, and flying is often the only way to get from one place to another. In order to efficiently serve as many residents of the area as possible, the NYUCD–Henry Schein Cares program aims to enlist additional dental schools for each mission, in order to be able to simultaneously deploy multiple teams to provide more care to more villages. Ultimately, the goal is to have each dental school take the lead in one area, enabling other schools to move on to serve additional villages.
For example, Arizona's expanded presence on the mission - from two volunteers last year to six this year - enabled it to take on a more central role in three days of outreach to Fort Yukon, a village that NYUCD and Arizona jointly visited in 2009.
"With more people on the ground, we operated our temporary clinic more efficiently," said Dr. Maureen Romer, an Associate Professor and Director of Special Care Dentistry at the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, who led the Arizona contingent in both 2009 and 2010. Arizona plans to take the lead on the spring 2011 mission to Fort Yukon, enabling NYUCD to reduce its presence there and redeploy some students and faculty to other locations.
Arizona's increased presence ties in with its focus on preparing students to provide oral health care in areas of need throughout the United States. The school confers a certificate in public health in conjunction with a DMD degree and requires students to perform community service at off-campus dental clinics.
"We like helping people regardless of where they live," remarked Arizona team member Dr. Cassandra Jones, '10.
Although traveling to the Alaskan Arctic can be challenging, the team in NYUCD's Office of International Affairs & Development was able to smooth over many hurdles.
"Actually," said Dr. Bonnie Nelson, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at the Loma Linda School of Dentistry and a veteran of the school's outreach missions to Honduras and Nicaragua, "this was the easiest outreach I ever participated in. NYUCD Program Coordinators Rachel Hill and Amanda Meissner made all the necessary arrangements, including helping me to obtain the temporary license I needed to practice dentistry in Alaska."
"Since we've been to this region before, we had a network of contacts in the state health department and in each of the villages we were scheduled to visit," said Ms. Hill. Added Ms. Meissner, "We knew who to call to make things happen."
Many participants cited an interest in experiencing the Alaska lifestyle firsthand as a motivation for taking the trip.
"Students are interested in doing these kinds of missions since they like to interact with people from different cultures," said Dr. Beatrice Gandara, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Educational Partnerships & Diversity at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. Dr. Travis Nelson, a third-year pediatric resident at the school, added, "The local children seemed absolutely fascinated with all of the strangers who converged on their village for two days. Many would hang around after their appointments just to watch or talk with the dentists."
In addition to Ms. Hill and Ms. Meissner, NYUCD's participants in the outreach included Dr. Stuart Hirsch, Associate Dean for International Affairs & Development; Dr. Peter Catapano, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Gayle Miranda, Clinical Assistant Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery; Ms. Jill Fernandez, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Cristine Abreu Sosa, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Magda Goralczyk, Advanced Education Program in Endodontics, '11; Dr. Mohab Tanious, Advanced Education Program in Endodontics, '11; and the following members of the Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry Class of 2011: Dr. Scott Sachs, Dr. Shwetha Rai, Dr. Andrew Chang, Dr. Yoon Chung, and Dr. Alfonse Doan.
Additional participants included Dr. Hansel Gonzalez, Advanced Program for International Dentists in Oral Surgery, '10; Dr. Nicholas Zawada, Dr. Omoirawua Osagimwangbon, and Dr. Sarah Euksuzian, all DDS Class of 2010; and Ms. Patti Ong and Mr. Matthew Eppright, DDS Class of 2011.
In addition to Dr. Romer and Dr. Jones, the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health's DDS participants included Dr. Jordan Karren, '10; Dr. Thomas Nack, '10; Ms. Andrea Livingood, '11; and Mr. Rob Matthews, '11.
In addition to Dr. Nelson, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry was represented by Dr. Laura McCormack, Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry, '11.