Volunteer Dentistry Overseas: Dental Students and Faculty Participate in Mission Trip to Fiji

A group of students and faculty from the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry spent a recent school spring break volunteering their time and talents overseas. For 10 days in March, 22 students, eight faculty and three guests traveled to across the Pacific Ocean to provide dental care to villagers in the remote island area of Moala Village, Fiji. The Dugoni School of Dentistry’s Fiji trip takes place each spring.

Throughout this year’s trip, volunteers treated nearly 230 unique patients, with many patients visiting the clinic over multiple days for extensive treatment that could not be accomplished in one visit. In total more than 270 teeth were extracted and nearly 200 fillings were placed by volunteers. Patient ages ranged from young children to elderly villagers.

While extractions and fillings were necessary for many patients, the recent focus of the Fiji trip has turned to an emphasis on prevention and education of the villagers. With each annual trip to Fiji, volunteers are seeing the effects of past efforts, including less tooth decay in certain patients that have received oral hygiene instruction and preventative care in previous years. This year, dental school volunteers also implemented an official charting system to better track patients that seek treatment from year to year.

Student and faculty participants have noted the excitement villagers have for the dental school’s annual visit to Moala Village. To welcome volunteers at the start of the trip, the village will host a traditional kava ceremony which inducts the volunteers as temporary members of the community, thus making them eligible to provide care per Fijian customs. While the primary goal of the trip is to provide dental care to those in need, students and faculty volunteers also are exposed to a new culture, which offers learning opportunities that can benefit future patient interactions in dental school and beyond.

“Each year that we go to Fiji, we are privileged to witness the gratitude of a people and the personal growth of our students,” said Zenitra Kumar, Class of 2012 and one of the Fiji trip student leaders. “Pacific’s presence will hopefully translate into an improvement in oral health for a region of Fiji that has been deemed the worst nationally. If we can leave the people of Moala better off for having known us, then that is success.”

This year, Henry Schein Cares generously donated thousands of dollars worth of consumable supplies – such as glass ionomers, fluoride varnish and gloves – which volunteers brought to Fiji with them. The Dugoni School of Dentistry also loaned supplies to trip volunteers.

To read more visit: http://dental.pacific.edu/x4116.xml