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 my 5th and perhaps final blog about our 2016 Jamaica dental outreach program. 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 the fourth blog, I talked about some shock and awe that we all experienced. And in this blog, I’m going to tackle the interesting topic of REVERSE culture shock.
Reverse Culture Shock
Papa Joe and I warned everyone from the beginning: when you get back home, you’re going to be in for a shocker. You won’t be used to anything. You may find yourself missing your team and ESPECIALLY your patients. You may be wondering what the heck you’re doing up here and if it’s making any difference at all. That’s what Papa Joe calls reverse culture shock.
For me, when I did this trip the first time, I had difficulty adjusting at first. I kept thinking: I had such a big physiological impact on the lives of so many in Jamaica over a short period of time; I feel like I’m wasting away up here. I need to be back there, helping out. I’m definitely not making the most of my life by typing and talking and phoning, etc. I wasn’t depressed; just in a daze for a few days. And I wasn’t the only who felt that way. This time around, I felt it a little bit; but not as much as some of the other volunteers. Here are some examples:
Dental hygienist Nina Nguyen after returning:
“I was missing going to the beach after work (every day). So I did a painting last night of the sunsetting at Negril beach.”
Dr. Irish Malapitan after returning:
“I was sad when I got home. I was more thankful for the things that we have. I truly loved the patients in Jamaica. They had so little but gave us so much”
Dr. Jacqueline Geroche after returning:
“I walked into a store and bought a patty. It was 5:00 p.m. and I need a patty. I’ve never done that before. I’m withdrawing and I can’t deal with this right now. I see the privilege that we have as Canadians and we have it so good and we take it for granted. And I know there’s still barriers to dental care up here, but it’s nothing like they have down there.”
Dental hygienist June Jennings:
“I have been missing our group already.”
For my fellow lawyer at DMC LLP, Jonathan Borrelli, it sunk in when he returned home and saw the tall buildings.
FYI, in Jamaica, they’re just called Patties. Here, they’re called Jamaican beef Patties. I saw this at the Toronto airport upon arrival and had to take a pic:
So what’s my recommended treatment for reverse culture shock?
Step 1: Reminisce about the good times, the challenges, and think about how good we’ve got it up here.
Step 2: Call up other volunteers and meet up.
Step 3: Come down and volunteer every year. It’s guaranteed to be the best 10 days of the year and some of the best memories of your life!
As I mentioned in the Oral Health Office article that’s coming out about our mission trip: this is a temporary solution. Papa Joe has a wonderful dream of acquiring a piece of land close to Montego Bay (currently listed for USD$1.2-million) and developing it as a public dental clinic. A clinic that can accommodate 50 people and which will see dental and non-dental volunteers from North America and Jamaica spend 1 week at a time providing free dental treatments and education to impoverished Jamaicans. I believe we can help Papa Joe with his goal. It won’t be easy. We need to fundraise, and also get donations of sundries and equipment; and we also need volunteers to work there all year round.
I’m pleased to announce that an article I wrote entitled “Mission Accomplished: 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program” will be published in the October edition of Oral Health Office magazine! The article talks about how the program started over a year ago, what transpired for the 10 days that we were there, and what’s next! Stay tuned…
This is a follow up to my two previous blogs about our 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program. I’ve written 5 blogs about our trip and you can read them here: (1) Mission Accomplished + New Mission, (2) PICS from the Week, (3) What Transpired, (4) Stories From The Clinic, (5) Final Thoughts.
In this blog, I’m going to be talking about heading down and the first few days of the trip. Keep in mind that it was a 10-day trip, so I’ll reserve more thoughts in the next few blogs… so here we go:
Most of our team took the same flight down (via WestJet) on Friday, August 28th. It was a long time coming… almost 1 year from the time I decided to organize the trip after meeting Papa Joe in Jamaica (along with Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan on my b-day in 2014). Throughout the year, DMC LLP talked to dentists, students, hygienists and others about coming down to do volunteer work while staying at a Sandals / Beaches resort. We managed to get a group organized and we received donations from Henry Schein, Patterson and K-Dental.
So after all the paperwork done, flights booked, and figuring out how to get supplies down there, the only thing really missing was… US!
On that fateful Friday, we met at the airport, greeted each other, and took this pic before boarding:
There were a few people from our team who were missing – such as Dr. Sylvie Dagenais (from Gatineau), Melissa Brunette (hygienist), and Dr. Patrick Hackett (out of Sault Ste. Marie) and his team.
The 4 hour flight was uneventful (interestingly enough, it was about 3 hours and 40 minutes on the way back; I guess the wind has something to do with it.
When we arrived in Jamaica, there were a few minor hiccups. Apparently, WestJet allowed Ljubica (at no extra charge) to bring down an extra suitcase full of dental supplies. But then WestJet (for reasons unknown) sent that suitcase to Kingston, Jamaica instead of Negril, Jamaica (our destination!). Arghhh! Paperwork required! Luckily, it was only bibs, masks and gloves that were in her suitcase, and we had lots of those previously shipped down.
At the airport, we enjoyed free beer, Champagne, and dessert at Sandals’ luxurious waiting area. We were then whisked away to our resort in a private bus. Along the way, I took it upon myself to give my fellow bus compatriots a quasi-guided tour / quasi trivia challenge of everything I knew about Jamaica. It made the 1.5 hours (travel time between the airport and the resort) go by very quickly; and there was an occasional smile and laugh. Everyone was in good spirits and we looked forward to arriving and unpacking.
We ended up staying at the beautiful Beaches resort situated along the 9-miles of powdery white sand in Negril (second, probably only to the Beaches in Turks & Caicos, the #1 rated resort for families in the Caribbean in my humble opinion). Beaches is owned by Sandals and is designed for families (whereas Sandals is adults only). We got our rooms and unpacked. Then straight for food and drink we went. Then came the beach and pool. Although we were tired from traveling, we wanted to relax and enjoy ourselves before all the hard and rewarding work we had committed to. FYI, if you’ve never been to a Sandals or Beaches resort, they are #1 when it comes to luxury. For the kids, for example, they have a kids camp, daily Sesame Street Shows, food and pool (including slides, a splash park and a lazy river) catered just for kids. I haven’t come across a better resort for families. Here is a quick video of part of one of their Sesame Street shows:
Here are some pics my wife, Paris, took of the resort:
So our team met each other (many dentists, hygienists, assistants and others in the group had never previously met or had only met once prior) and we were all excited about what lay ahead…
We spent most of Saturday at the beach. In the evening time (6:30 p.m.), we gathered at the air-conditioned disco club to meet Papa Joe, Salli Jo, and the rest of the Great Shape Inc.! team (including Richard, D.J., Oshane and Roshane, etc.). We introduced ourselves to the team (name, job, why we’re here, etc.). Then we had to pick teams to go to one of three dental clinics – namely, where we would be spending 5 days working: Kendal, Grange Hill, or Cave Valley. I ended up putting teams together based on who I knew might work well together. It’s impossible to predict how a group of strangers will interact, but thankfully we were all there to give back to the community, so at least we had a common goal that could help dissipate differences of opinion. I’ll have more to share about team building in my next blog…
On Sunday, we spent some time with Papa Joe (actual name: Joseph Wright) and Salli Jo Walker getting oriented. They told us how the week would progress, what kinds of roles / responsibilities each person would have, how they expected us to deliver top notch dental treatment (no short cuts), and to learn the local dialect (Patois). Here are some pics of that orientation:
After orientation, we headed out to the beach to grab some team pics and then picked up some supplies and headed out to our respective clinics to do a final set up before the week began.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about going into the fire (Monday morning!) where I developed my first of many new skills: mob control 😉
Dr. Tim Milligan put it best: “It was the experience of my lifetime“. He spoke those words as part of his acceptance speech when he received the U of T Award of Distinction in the spring of 2014 for his extensive dental outreach work abroad. He was describing his most recent trip with his daughter, Dr. Melissa Milligan. And he said those words. And they hit me. I did not have a so-called “experience of my lifetime”. I wanted one. More than anything else…
So over the next few months, I’d find myself googling “dental mission trips” or “dentists without borders” in the Caribbean. You see, with a baby boy, it’s hard for me to travel beyond the Caribbean (longer flights are harder for me to manage, especially NOW with a 2.5 year old and a pregnant wife). And it just happened to be that, on my birthday, when I was with the family in Beaches Negril last September with Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan, we met up with Papa Joe (a.k.a. Joseph Wright). We didn’t know each other. But it was a meeting that was meant to be. I showed him my great card trick and afterwards, when we got to talking, he told me that he and his group (called “Great Shape! Inc.”) helps organize groups of dentists, hygienists and dental students to come down to Jamaica to volunteer (and the Sandals Foundation generously donates $1-million worth of rooms, transportation, meals and entertainment to his group). I’ve previously written about this meeting here.
After extensive discussions over a few months, DMC LLP and Great Shape! Inc. were able to organize a mission trip at the same resort (Beaches Negril) from August 28 through to September 6, 2015. We had a large group of dentists, hygienists, dental students from U of T, assistants, and non-professional volunteers go down to Jamaica to provide free dental care to impoverished Jamaicans:
As I’ll describe over the next few blogs, it was hard work, extremely rewarding, and it will forever change my life and my views. If you’re interested in joining us next year, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
But let me jump to the conclusion first. What’s the end result? Well, now that it’s done…we will definitely be going down again next year. I love the Jamaican culture, the people, the food, the music, and the opportunity to help their community. And we will be organizing next year’s trip likely after November (when Great Shape! Inc. wraps up their current program and can take a minute to breathe!).
But, in addition to continuing this great program, we have a new goal: to help establish a free public dental clinic in Jamaica with accommodations to allow Canadian / U.S. dentists, hygienists, assistants, dental students and others to stay a week at a time to volunteer and treat Jamaicans in need of oral care. Again, this new project will be in ADDITION to partaking in the Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation “1,000 Smiles” dental outreach program, which runs typically from August through to November each year in Jamaica and in July in St. Lucia.
So how much do we need to raise to establish a clinic and accommodations (on the beach hopefully)? I think raising $1-million is a very good start. That will give them enough to build a state of the art clinic and accommodations that will be able to run year-round. We will be recruiting dentists, hygienists, assistants, and spouses to come down and experience Jamaica and help those in desperate need. We will also need supply companies like Henry Schein, Patterson and K-Dental to donate equipment and supplies to our clinic. And I’d like to see the two dental schools (U of T and UWO) on board is also on the agenda, as we will need dental students to come down and volunteer. It may take some time to accomplish, but we are committed for the long haul.
So that’s our new mission… a worthy goal… a legacy to build and leave behind so that generations of impoverished Jamaicans (on the one hand) and Jamaican and North American dental professionals can mutually benefit. Let’s get together and make this happen.
One Love 😉
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