Written by: Clark Damon, DDS (Dallas County Dental Society Member)
Ask anyone who has been to Haiti before and they will tell you it is an experience unlike any other. Haiti is a lost and often forgotten country, stricken by some of the most severe poverty on the planet. Yet, it lies in the midst of the Caribbean Ocean only a one and a half hour flight from Miami. As natural disasters pound the island year after year, and political corruption reigns, the Haitian people are left to suffer. Public services such as clean water, garbage disposal and sewage are non-existent, while basic utilities are rare and inconsistent at best. Yet through it all, the haitian people are vibrant and strong.
Highland Park United Methodist Church (HPUMC) has collaborated with the Methodist Church of Haiti for over 42 years – the majority of which has been via an ophthalmology clinic and surgery center. In the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, when many medical facilities in the region were inoperable, local providers began seeing all types of patients in the two functioning buildings of the Siloe Clinic supported by HPUMC. As rebuilding progressed and community assets were evaluated, the need for dental care rose to the top of the list. In response, HPUMC has sent three dental mission teams to Haiti working out of the eye clinic buildings over the last three years.
HPUMC is building a dental clinic and needing more Dallas dentists to help. The dental clinic started with a single dental chair upholstered in a combination of blue vinyl and silver duct tape! The chair barely functioned, but was able to accommodate a single dentist leading the team. Since that trip, we have added a Nomad and digital sensor for digital x-rays and laptops with Eaglesoft charting software. We utilize three portable dental units, surgical headlamps for excellent illumination, and a piezo unit to help remove calculus. We are warmly welcomed into the town of Petit Goave to evaluate and treat patients who, for the most part, have never before seen a dentist.
With a need so great, HPUMC has committed to expand its’ dental presence in Haiti by building a dental clinic and increasing the number of visiting dentists to both treat patients and provide continuing education to Haitian dentists.
In 2018, we had two dentists and two DS3 Texas A&M Dental students working for a week seeing hundreds of patients. The dental students reported at the end of the first day that they did their entire third year requirements in one day! It was a lot of fun for them to experience the gift of dentistry and to see first-hand how treating a patients’ dental needs truly effects their life in a positive way.
We are looking for dentists, hygienists and assistants for our March 2019 trip. If you would like to be involved, we would love to have you! Dentists will treat patients but also work with and teach dental students. We’ve found the primary needs of our Haitian patients are prophys, fillings and third molar extractions. We hope to take four dental students with us in 2019, and your presence can help to make that happen!
To learn more about HPUMC’s work in Haiti, please visit http://www.hpumc.org/haiti/
For information about serving on the March 15-23, 2019 mission team, please contact Caroline Hazlett at [email protected]