When I was invited to travel to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in a dental outreach program, I almost declined to go. It would take me away from my practice at a busy time of year. My son, a third year dental student at USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry, convinced me that this would be an experience which I would never forget. “This experience will change your life, Dad”, he said. He was right.
Dental Patients Lined Up A Month In Advance
I had participated in dental mission trips before, but as I prepared to go, I began to realize that the scale of this program was much greater than the ones I had attended in Mexico and other countries. In all, 88 volunteers were making the trip to Nairobi to set up a fully operational dental clinic intended to provide dental care for hundreds of people. As I prepared to leave, I shared my plans with some of the patients in my Dallas oral surgery practice. Some of them were from Kenya, and still had family there. They told me that their family back in Nairobi knew about the coming dental clinic, and many people had begun traveling there from over 100 miles away. Three weeks before the start of the clinic, patients who had never received professional dental care before were lining up outside the open air church where our clinic would soon spring up.
Henry Schein Helps the Cause
I was very thankful to some dental supply companies, including Henry Schein, who donated much needed supplies and instrumentation which would be needed in order to provide our patients safe and comfortable oral surgery services. With the donations secured by Ostrow and the supplies donated to me, we were able to provide the same level of patient care and safety as I do in my own practice.
The two day trip from Dallas to Nairobi was tiring, but we arrived excited and ready to work. The clinic was housed in an open air structure, usually used as a church. It had only one wall and three sides were made from curtains. Upon our arrival, we received word that our supplies and equipment had not made it to Nairobi, and it would be 2 days before it arrived. Since many of us had brought supplies of our own, we were able to scrounge up what we needed to take care of the many people who had been waiting for us.
The Largest Dental Outreach in Kenya’s History
The USC Humanitarian Outreach Project and Dr. Michael Hyodo organized and carried out what resulted in Kenya’s largest dental outreach project ever. TheUSC-HO Project is a student run organization which succeeded in bringing together 51 dental professionals and 37 support people for one week to perform dentistry in the second largest slum in Kenya. The experience of providing dental care to the poorest of the poor, most of whom had never seen a dentist or used a toothbrush before, was truly amazing. The people I met and the people I served were truly amazing and I am proud to have been a part of it.