I’m pleased to announce that Oral Health Office magazine has just published my article entitled “Mission 2 Jamaica”, which talks about our 10-day dental outreach program in Jamaica this past September (3-12). You’ll see some pics, read some stories about how we were better prepared to go down this year, and you’ll also read (and maybe tear up or laugh out loud) about what happened at the clinic and back at the resort. Enjoy:
FYI, you can read all of our published articles HERE.
DMC LLP was a sponsor of Schulich Dentistry’s Seminar: “ROCK Your Practice to the Top” on September 30. Attendees learned the secrets of delivering better patient care and communication, teamwork, practice growth, and fulfillment in the dental profession.
This is the fourth blog about our second dental outreach trip to Jamaica. Here’s the first blog, wherein I mainly talked about preparing to go down and how much better we were at it (compared to 2015!). In the second blog, I talked about clinic set up, equipment failures and how we had to adapt. In the third blog, I talked about how we worked hard and played hard. In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of the shock and awe that we saw at the clinics. In the next blog, I’ll discuss reverse culture shock.
Shock and Awe
Dental hygienist Nina Nguyen:
“What definitely shocked me was the line up on the first day outside our door. There were so many people. I guess it was my first experience with something like this. I didn’t know that there would be so many people. When I heard that so many of them had been there at 6:00 a.m. and we only got there at 3:00 p.m. to start setting up. It’s a long time to wait in the heat. I felt emotional just seeing that. Seeing all of these people so desperate to seek dental care. And knowing that they wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise. It made me very eager to help. It made me appreciate how good we have it. I felt emotional just watching them. I guess I’ll always remember that.”
The scene outside of Grange Hill community centre on day #1
Dr. Irish Malapitan:
“The kids. That’s what shocked me. When they opened their mouths, I couldn’t believe how rampant the decay was. How could they have it for such a long time and not be in a lot of pain? Either poor education, treatment not being available, too expensive. It also seemed to be cultural: the mentality is once it’s broken, I don’t need it anymore. People seemed to function with gums. One older patient had only 1 tooth!”
But what also shocked the dentists and hygienists was how appreciative patients were.
Dental hygienist Jazz Chohan:
“The thing that touched me the most were how appreciative they were. My first patient was 80. She had to save up USD60 to get 1 cleaning – basically 1 week of salary. She saved up and did it once. She told me: ‘The fact that you are doing this, thank you. Lots of people wouldn’t do anything like this.'”
Dr. Millie Calko:
“Patients were really grateful. A lot of them would say ‘ what can I bring you?’ One lady left and came back and brought me an exquisite candle holder. I did some work for her; she was so happy and made me feel like I literally changed her life. She was jumping out of her skin with gratitude.”
We can’t use the word “AWE” without mentioning baby Mathew over at Grange Hill. Basically, Christine Martel was working as patient check out. She left her spot near the door and the next thing everyone knew, she showed up with a cute little baby! That got our attention. Here are some great shots with 5 month old baby Mathew:
Baby Matthew with Christine Martel and Dr. Joseph Fava.
Tashi Malcolm with baby Matthew.
Interesting story: my wife Parastou Carabash had brought down a baby Bjorn baby holder (pictured above). We didn’t really have a use for it (our pudgy 7 month old Daniel had outgrown it). I noticed that Mathew’s mom, Tashi, was lugging this cute little guy everywhere. He was not light 😉 I couldn’t believe they didn’t have some kind of strap or stroller, etc. So I gave her this thing and showed her how to use it. I was so happy the baby passed out while she was wearing it. I hope it makes her life easier!
P.S. if anyone wants to send anything down to Tashi for little Matthew, her address is:
3686058 Belle Isle Rd
Grange Hill, Westmoreland
This is the third blog about our second dental outreach trip to Jamaica. Here’s the first blog, wherein I mainly talked about preparing to go down and how much better we were at it (compared to 2015!). Here’s the second blog, wherein I talked about clinical set up, equipment failures, and how we adapted to make the best of the situation. Now, in this blog, I’m going to be sharing only a LITTLE bit of the some of the fun we had at the clinics and back at the resort. In the next blog, I’ll talk about some of the shock and awe that we saw at the clinics. And in the final blog, I’ll discuss reverse culture shock.
Having Fun… Perhaps Too Much Fun!
I can’t divulge everything; you’ll just have to come down to experience the fun yourself. I do recall Dr. Mille Calko saying it was the funniest 10 days of her life and that she’s never laughed so hard!
Working Hard / Playing Hard
I don’t think there was a day when I went to bed before 1:00 a.m. And yet everyday I was up around 6:30 a.m., ready to get started on the day. I think I can speak for all of us: we were running on adrenaline every day. Some of us got sick after a few days because our bodies were tired and we were just pushing them to the extreme. I mean… think about it… during clinical days, we would get back to the resort around 5:00 p.m. and then go to the bar, grab a patty, hit the ocean, then go have dinner, and then hit the club, etc. Do that for a few days and you’ll understand why some of us were getting sick. We ended up loading up on soup and antibiotics to get us through the week. But it worked! Some of the volunteers got home and, when they finally gave their bodies a chance to recover from the adrenaline rush, their bodies turned against them and got them sick for a few days!
Here’s the tiny boat team Grange Hill (plus Dr. Jackie Geroche) took to Rick’s Cafe one evening. What a ride!
The World Famous Rick’s Cafe! Only Dr. Joseph Fava was brave enough to jump the 60 feet! Dr. Christina Bodea and husband Stefan Atalick jumped from the lower level.
And I don’t want you to think that there was a clear separation between work and play. We played on the way to and from the clinics. We also played at the clinics. For example, at Grange Hill, we played music on the van ride, played music at our clinic, and sometimes we took photos and posed with patients after a treatment. Our group theme song was…. Ghostbusters! Why? Because that’s what my son Michael currently loves as his favourite song. So I just kept playing it and we kept signing it.
Over at Little London, they were singing Christmas Carols like Let it Snow and Jingle Bells. Sometimes, while waiting for a patient, Dr. Irish Malapitan and Jazz Chohan would start doing ‘booty bounce’ dances at the clinic. All of these things made patients laugh and feel more comfortable. Here’s what it looked like
The official slogan for team Little London was Bar – Patty – Ocean. Here’s how it came about, as per Dr. Irish Malapitan: “We were on the bus; we were figuring out what we were going to do next. Oh no let’s go to the bar. No let’s go to the ocean. It was a time we could as a clinic group, think about the day and trouble shoot about how we were going to get better. By Friday we had it down to a science.”
We had fun, regardless of where we were of what we were doing. Back at the resort, we would do things together like play “Apples to Apples” at Cafe de Paris; go for a stroll by the beach late at night; hit the water park and go down the slides; hop on a boat and head out to Rick’s Cafe to jump 60 feet into the water (for the record, only Dr. Joseph Fava did this!).
I think we were having too much fun. But that’s what made it work. That’s what kept us motivated. To get through the hot days, poor ergonomic conditions, lack of available instruments and equipment failures.
We had a group of characters who would tell us incredible stories (like Dr. Mary Berkmortel or Dr. Jacqueline Geroche); we had funny nicknames for lots of people (like Candlestick for Stefan Atalick and Dr. Propa Touch for Utech dental grad student Tevin Carter). Sufficed to say, there was a lot of love in the air. And it all started from the beginning of the trip.
Some of the Nicknames
So apparently, “Irish” means potato in Patois. And that’s why a patient thanked “Dr. Potato” when referring to Dr. Irish Malapitan. Papa Joe explained at breakfast early in the week that Jamaicans referred to rustic potatoes as Irish and from that day it just stuck.
“My Man Child”
This name was given by Dr. Irish Malapitan to Jason Brown (Henry Schein sales manager). Basically, when team Little London was deciding on who was going to assist who, Dr. Irish said that she would take Jason Brown (a completely inexperienced assistant). “He’s my man child” said Dr. Irish.
According to Jason: “Dr. Irish and I clicked from the onset. Over the five days, I learned how she worked and what she needed. By the end of the week, we were able to practice four-handed dentistry. Doctor Irish was very patient and I have a lot of respect for her.”
Jason Brown (a.k.a. Dr. Irish Malapitan’s Man Child) and Dr. Irish Malapitan treating a patient at Little London
Dr. Potato (Dr. Irish Malapitan) with her Man Child (Jason Brown) and dental hygienist Jazz Chohan in the back
Dr. Propa Touch
So on the first day of clinic, I was going around and asking everyone how they were doing; whether they needed anything; how much time they thought they had left before I could bring them another patient. When I was talking to UTech Dental Grad Tevin Carter (which DMC LLP sponsored to be there), I asked him if that was going to be a difficult extraction. His response: “No. It just needs the propa touch”. And it was like a light shining over me: he would be called “Dr. Propa Touch”. I would henceforth introduce him as Tevin, aka “Dr. Propa Touch”. Everyone laughed.
Dr. Propa Touch (a.k.a. Tevin Carter) with dental hygienist Melissa Brunette and her mom Christine Martel
I’m sure the name will stick because… during our 2015 mission trip, when we were volunteering, we had a UTech dental grad student named Grantley Grant. I saw him spend over an hour with a difficult extraction. The cap had snapped and he was left with a bunch of roots. He asked me to bring him some instruments – east / west elevator, etc. I had no idea what he was looking for. I eventually brought him the right tools, which I called ‘a scooper’. And when “Dr. Scoops” (who was sweating it out trying to scoop out those roots using his trusted scooper) finally finished, everyone was overjoyed! “Dr. Scoops” or “Scoops” for short stuck with Grantley. Apparently, in St. Lucia in July 2016, Grantley was there. And he was still known as “Dr. Scoops”. Ha ha ha! Love it!
P.S. Can you feel the love?
Volunteers + Papa Joe going for a stroll at night at the resort.
Team Little London on the last day back at the resort.
Dr. Irish Malapitan, dental hygienist Jazz Chohan and dental hygiene student (Oregon) Sandra Busch out for a stroll in the rain after clinic.
This is the second blog about our second dental outreach trip to Jamaica. Here’s the first blog, wherein I mainly talked about preparing to go down and how much better we were at it (compared to 2015!). Now, in this blog, I’m going to be telling some stories about what happened in the clinics. The good, the bad, and the really ugly stuff… And how we had to adapt to keep going. In the next blog, I’ll talk about some of the funny things that happened in and outside of the clinics. In the fourth blog, I’ll discuss some shock and awe that we experienced. And in the final blog, I’ll talk about reverse culture shock.
By way of background, our Canadian contingent was pretty much divided into 3 groups: a small resort clinic (which had 1 dentist + 1 hygienist + 1 assistant and who worked on resort staff); a clinic at the Town of Little London and another clinic at the settlement of Grange Hill. The latter 2 clinics had about 12 or so volunteers.
Team Little London!
Team Grange Hill (with community volunteers!)
Clinic Set Up
Each clinic had 7 chairs. 2 of those chairs were used for hygiene. 1 chair for a dental student. And the remaining 4 chairs for dentists. We had a sterilization room with 2 autoclaves, ultrasonic bath, etc. In terms of sundries, we would initially set up the clinic with what we thought we needed and then make a supplies list every day for things we needed. Then we’d just go to the supplies room back at the resort and pack up what we needed for the next day. That’s how we got through the week. Our supplies were pretty well organized at the clinic.
Over the course of the 5 days that we volunteers, harsh working conditions coupled with equipment failures made it difficult (but not impossible) to work. Over at Little London, here’s how dental hygienist Jazz Chohan described it:
“Where do I start? Ergonomically, this was the worst week of my life. I’ve worked the hardest I’ve ever worked. My arm was killing me by day 3. My chair stopped going back. I couldn’t use suction. I didn’t have water. So no cavitron. The next day, they sent me a cavitron that didn’t work. I was doing hand scale the entire week. I do hand scaling at home; but I’ve never done anything this. Our compressors kept failing; we only had 1 sterilizer for most of the week until we got a second one. The second one came was taking too long (old autoclave); took a long time to get things cleaned vs. the 30 minutes for the other one. There were set backs with the availability of the equipment and also the use; assistant wasn’t trained so he wasn’t putting things into the autoclave strategically.”
Typical work station over at Little London
Dental Hygienist Jazz Chohan
Over at Grange Hill, we had cavitrons stop working, compressors fail (due to fuses being tripped), equipment not being available (we were waiting a few times for syringes to get sterilized). On our first day there, our saliva ejectors weren’t fitting properly into our adec units! Oh no!
Here’s the key thing to remember: be prepared for things to stop working. When they do, try your best to fix them and when you can’t, call in the experts. There were a few guys like Oshane and Roshane and Richard who worked with Great Shape! Inc. and who were sometimes available to help us with our equipment problems. But when they weren’t around and it didn’t look like we were going to get a working cavitron, we had to IMPROVISE. In our case, when we didn’t have syringes ready, I put all of our hygienists to work doing cleanings. This gave the dentists a break. Only 2 cavitrons were working and we typically had 5 hygienists, so I would send the little boys and girls to 3 hygienists to do hand-scaling and the older folks would go to the hygienists who were using the cavitrons. Then, once we got the syringes working again, the hygienists went back to assisting the dentists on extractions and fillings. Like I said: ADAPT! And when we noticed that the saliva ejectors weren’t fitting, we made some ‘adapters’ by cutting other surgical saliva ejectors to make it all work. And it did!
Another way in which we had to adapt involved registration. At first, it was just me doing registrations alongside DJ of Great Shape! Inc. Then we decided to get Dr. Christina Bodea to do triage. And her husband Stefan Atalick started helping out with the ticketing system. Things were going slow, but people were getting registered. But because we had a huge lineup outside our door on the first day, we needed to speed things up. So we decided to set up another table and have more people help with registration. This helped ease the tension and it definitely sped things up. I would register people on Mondays through Wednesday and DJ would register on Thursdays and Fridays. I only wish we would have done this from the beginning!
Grange Hill Set Up
Team Grange Hill getting instructions from Oshane about equipment
Over at Little London, they also had to adapt to their environment. They had a hygienist named Carla (their team leader who had done this mission trip before) who was able to freeze patients so the doctors would simply come over and start their treatment. She was trained in the U.S. on how to do this; apparently, Canadian hygienists aren’t allowed. This helped speed things up at their clinic. Another way in which team Little London got ahead of the 8 ball was by dividing the roles of patient intake (Jonathan Borrelli, DMC LLP) and patient flow (Anthony Archer, Henry Schein) after the first day. This helped speed things up tremendously.
FYI, here’s a cool time lapse video I took of us working a FULL day at Grange Hill.
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