By Dr. Ron C. Hill
I was very fortunate last summer to be able to volunteer with the AAE Foundation in the Jamaican Outreach Program in partnership with Christian Dental Services. I’m going to share my experience today, but first a little back story for context. My first (and only other trip) to Jamaica was for my honeymoon almost 16 years ago. I had planned to stay at a nice, all-inclusive resort. When we arrived, I was completely dismayed at the amount of abject poverty that surrounded us. I had no idea that the standard of living was so low and the people so poor. At first I thought maybe it was the location of the airport, or around the big cities, but there was little change in things as we traveled out of the city to our resort or on travels to other parts of the island. It was not very long after that that I realized that this was a poor country and that the resort was designed to hide that fact as much as possible from the vacationers. Ever since, I have always had some guilt about my vacation time spent among the Jamaican people who had so little.
I was excited to be selected by the AAE Foundation as a mentor to return to Jamaica and supervise residents in providing endodontic treatment for the wonderful islanders. We truly felt as if we were “superheroes” at saving teeth, or at least the locals made us feel that way. Before the Foundation set up this event, Christian Dental Services was only able to offer basic restorative treatment, extractions and cleanings. Thanks to wonderful donations by endodontists, corporate sponsors and the AAE Foundation, we were fully equipped to do endodontic treatment and vital pulp therapy. The clinic was a church sanctuary that was transformed into a 10-chair clinic from Monday to Friday. Over 500 patients were seen in the church that week and 20 root canal procedures were completed, as well as multiple pulp caps and other vital pulp procedures.
I can’t speak highly enough about the two residents, Drs. David Wong and Ahmed Ali Alelyani, both second-year residents from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. They braved the heat and tough conditions (including being stuck with yours truly as a roommate) and never complained or faltered. Thank you, David and Ahmed! I also once again want to thank the AAE Foundation for not only partnering with CDS to put this mission trip together, but giving me the great honor of being a part of it. It helped me make right something deeply personal that had always been on my mind for the last 15 years. Have a great spring, everyone.
Dr. Ron C. Hill is board liaison for the AAE’s Resident and New Practitioner Committee. He is also in private practice and is a clinical assistant professor for the Department of Endodontics at the University of Texas School of Dentistry, where he teaches both graduate and undergraduate students.