Because she has family in Nicaragua, whom she visits often, Aura Caldera, ‘08, is well acquainted with
the impact that chronically high unemployment, illiteracy, and poverty have had on the country, making it one of the poorest in Central America. When you consider the additional impact that hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters have had on the economy, it’s easy to understand why dental care is out of reach for most Nicaraguans. On a visit to her aunt in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, in 2004, Aura was particularly moved to learn of the plight of residents in the neighboring town of Chiquilistagua, home to more than 10,000 people, but no local dentist.
With her aunt agreeing to make on-site arrangements for a possible NYUCD outreach visit, Aura-with advice and guidance from Dr. Stuart M. Hirsch, Associate Dean for International Programs and Development-assembled a team of six faculty and staff members, a total of 13 DDS students, two pediatric residents, a resident and a fellow in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and a student in the Advanced Program in Comprehensive Dentistry for International Dentists.
She also solicited and gained support from NYUCD and corporate sponsors, secured an invitation from Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health, and made travel arrangements, turning her dream of outreach to Nicaragua into a reality. During that visit, the team treated nearly 600 people ranging in age from two to 78.
The outreach team was so warmly welcomed and their services so much in demand that they returned in spring 2007, this time with the addition of NYU endodontists and nurses, making a total of 35 outreach team members, who provided expanded care to more than 750 people.
Says Aura: The experience that the Nicaragua dental outreach has given me has influenced the role that I want to play as a future healthcare provider. I envision a time when every graduating dental student gets the opportunity to participate in an international outreach, thereby fostering a breed of social entrepreneurial dentists, healthcare pioneers working to benefit humanity.