On a cold winter morning, three doctors, three Dartmouth medical students, and several undergraduates boarded a plane in Boston. A few hours later, the group touched down in warm, sunny Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. The next day, the Dartmouth Medical Brigade took a short domestic flight to the other side of the country and landed in Siuna, a large town in the east. One very bumpy bus ride later, we arrived at our final destination: Rosa Grande, a quiet farming community set among the rolling hills of Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Zone. Dartmouth has been making this trek for over ten years as part of its Cross Cultural Education and Service Program (CCESP), sponsored by the Tucker Foundation and generous donations from private companies like Henry Schein. The Dartmouth group partners with the NGO Bridges to Community to provide culturally appropriate medical and development services in rural Nicaragua.
This time, the students and doctors worked in the Rosa Grande health post. With the help of a Nicaraguan doctor and nurse, the Dartmouth Medical Brigade saw up to 80 patients/day. This trip, however, did not only include a mobile health clinic: we also implemented several more sustainable projects. Dartmouth students and doctors met with community health leaders from the surrounding villages to give workshops in health topics chosen by the Nicaraguan leaders. Also for the first time, the Dartmouth Medical Brigade planned a pediatric dental hygiene campaign: over 350 children learned how to properly brush their teeth, received toothbrushes, and had their teeth lacquered with dental varnish. In an area with limited access to professional dental services, preventative oral care is essential. Thanks in part to the generous donations of five dental hygiene kits by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, the children of Rosa Grande, Nicaragua have the knowledge and tools to maintain healthy teeth, gums, and mouths.