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.
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.
And we’re back! This was our second annual dental outreach program in Jamaica. And it was a HUGE SUCCESS! A large group of us went down from September 3-12, 2016. Our volunteer group included Ontario dentists, hygienists, dental students, Henry Schein representatives, dental lawyers (myself and Jonathan Borrelli) and support staff.
The 2016 Dental Outreach Program Volunteers
Now, in this blog, and the next 4, I’m going to get into some of the things that happened when we went down and also when we came back (what Papa Joe calls ‘reverse culture shock’). In blog #2, I’ll talk about the clinic set up, equipment failures and how we adapted to keep going. In blog #3, I’ll talk about working hard and playing hard. In blog #4, I’ll talk about some shock and awe. And in blog #5, I’ll talk about reverse culture shock (when we got home) and some parting thoughts.
Now that we’re all back, I can say without a doubt, it was the best 10 days of the year for me (and likely many other volunteers). Everyone misses each other; the patients; the patties! But before I get started, I’m very happy to report that Oral Health Office magazine will be publishing an article I wrote exclusively for them in the October / November edition of their magazine. I’ll be touching on some of the stories that I couldn’t really get to in that article in these next few blogs… so shall we begin?
1 Year in the Making
When I returned home on September 6, 2015 from our first Jamaica dental outreach program, we got to work on promoting the success of that year’s program, as well as recruiting for our 2016 program. We were featured in the Toronto Star on December 26, 2015 (HERE). An article I wrote (HERE) about the experience was published in Oral Health Office. Ontario Dentist magazine acknowledged some of our volunteers who were featured in the media, as well as Dr. Tim Milligan (whose speech at the U of T Gala motivated me to start the whole program) (which you can read about HERE). And then we went on the road… talking to dentists and dental students about the program. I figured the hardest year was behind us and we could do a much better job recruiting and preparing volunteers the second time around. I was right…
Sending Down Supplies
The first year, we hit a couple of snags when it came to sending down supplies. Some dentists sent supplies down. Some brought them down with them. We also got a sizeable donation from Henry Schein, Patterson Dental, and K-Dental which we shipped down. We didn’t really know how to deal with all the logistics of getting our supplies down to Florida and then to Jamaica. There were delays. We had to spend weeks figuring out all the paperwork. It cost us a lot of money too. But at the end of the day, we got our supplies down there.
This time around, we got even more supplies. 20 large rubbermaid containers full. Plus, Dr. Monica Dinca – Toronto; Dr. Calvin Pike – Endo; Kitchener-Waterloo; and Dr. Joseph Da Costa – Toronto all donated sundries and equipment… and they weren’t even able to volunteer! I was shocked by their generosity.
Thankfully, we managed to use a different shipping company to get everything down and it arrived punctually right before we did!
Dr. Monica Dinca (General Dentist – Toronto) poses alongside her donation of equipment and sundries.
Notice the chair here in Jamaica? It came from Dr. Monica Dinca’s office!
Dr. Calvin Pike (Endo – Kitchener Waterloo) and his wonderful team pose next to their donation of sundries. Who’s car is that?
This was MOST BUT NOT ALL of the stuff that we packed up at DMC LLP to ship down to Jamaica. It took a few days to get it done.
In terms of preparing to go down, we were better this year than last. Thanks to Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan Atalick, we were able to put together a preparation guide (which you can see HERE) about what to expect when going down. It was reviewed / edited by myself and Papa Joe and Salli Jo and the end result was this: everyone had a better understanding of what to expect for the week. Having done the program twice, I think there’s definitely room for adding more. I also sent out a series of e-mails throughout the months leading up to our departure to discuss things like: airplane tickets, paperwork, meeting up for a photo-op at our ASM after-party, and how to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos and sand fleas.
Some of our volunteers met up at our ODA ASM After-Party to get this shot. Oh Stefan!
I know you’re very interested in the whole ‘how to avoid getting bitten’ part, so here is the email I sent out (for the record, everyone commented about how little they were bitten throughout the trip because of my tips ;-):
Sand Fleas – also known as “No See Ums”
In terms of next steps, I will likely send out one (1) more email before our trip so you can can be best prepared for our 10 day trip. But I did want to mention something important – preventing bites from Sand Fleas, also called “No See Ums”. The Caribbean beaches are plagued by sand fleas. You can’t see them. You won’t know when you’re bit. Typically, you’ll wake up the next morning with a rash somewhere and think there are bed bugs. That’s them! And they likely bit you the day before. They bite your feet and ankles and legs while you’re sitting on the beach working on your tan. And their bites are rash-like, itch and swell and don’t go away. Last year, some volunteers didn’t follow my advice and ended up getting bitten pretty bad (needing to see the nurse and getting some injections). Those volunteers would say something like: “Oh, I never get bitten”. My suggestion to have a an enjoyable trip: put your egos away and follow my advice (I tend not to get bitten by mosquitos or sand fleas when I’m travelling through the Caribbean):
Following my suggestions should result in a comfortable trip where you can enjoy the beach. You won’t be trying to scratch your legs while you’re trying to pull out a tooth at one of the clinics 😉
Think about it like this: I have to take a team of 10-15 strangers per clinic and get them to make a temporary dental office work for 5 full days. Things will break down. That’s guaranteed. The working conditions are harsh (hot; humid; fans blow hot air at you; low light; mosquitos; etc.). And there’s a huge demand for dental treatments and cleanings (hundreds of people lined up outside). So you’ll definitely need a positive attitude. And then you need to make sure that the team members get along throughout it all. Make sure you have dominant / leadership personalities paired up with detail-oriented worker bees, social butterflies, and highly-structured steadies to keep everyone together. You can’t have too much of one personality (particularly dominant personalities) or else there will be drama. And that’s the worst thing ever when you’re down there: when you’re not having fun anymore because of internal bickering. Thankfully, we didn’t have any this year at our 2 clinics. I was so happy it worked out.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about what happened when we actually got to Jamaica…
For those of us fortunate enough to have met “The Twins” in Jamaica as part of our DMC LLP Dental Outreach Program, here is your chance to give back in a big way (for them) and small way (for us). Oshane & Roshane are awesome. If you’ve ever met them, here’s how you would likely describe them: fun, smiling, buffed up guys helping Papa Joe and the Great Shape Inc. team with their logistical issues (e.g. helping to set up and maintain temporary dental clinics in Jamaica). They have a great sense of humour. They were also competitive drummers (I think that’s what you call them) and all of the volunteers got a real treat at the end of our volunteer mission: they rocked it out with a selection of amazing drum pieces – all while dressed up in traditional garb.
Oshane and Roshane Need Our Help!
They give so much… And now it’s our turn to give them a little bit. Here’s the story:
Since 2011 the Twins, Oshane and Roshane Dennis, have been working hard to help make Great Shape!’s 1000 Smiles dental project the best volunteer dental program in the world. They care so much about Great Shape! and are so dedicated and proud about improving the lives of their fellow Jamaicans – one smile at a time.
Over those 5 years, the Twins have saved part of their hard earned pay to help improve the lives of their own family. Click here to read more about how they are setting out to make improvements to their family bathroom and home.
So far they have saved for about half of what they need to make improvements…join us in assisting them with the rest! You can donate here: GoFundMe – Oshane & Roshane Bath & Bedroom. They’ve almost achieved their goal of renovating their bathroom and I would love to see this campaign continue so that they can renovate their entire home. And just to show you that we put our money where our mouth is: DMC LLP has already donated $200 towards their worthy cause. Anything you can contribute (e.g. $20, $50, $100, etc.) will be very much appreciated.
Please join in creating joy and peace in yet one more effort to make the world a better place – this time by helping out the Great Shape! Inc. family. FYI, Papa Joe of Great Shape Inc. will be managing the money to make sure it gets to where it needs to (and if you haven’t met Papa Joe yet, here’s a few words to describe him: he’s a modern day saint and I’m not using those words lightly at all).
After the Winter Clinic, some of the members of our 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program reunited at our DMC LLP after-party to take a pic. Not everyone was able to make it, but a good enough number of our volunteers were there. I cannot say enough good things about this amazing group of people. They are professional, friendly, and truly care about giving back to the impoverished people of Jamaica.
From left to right: Michael Carabash (me), Stefan Atalick, Dr. Samantha Amaro, Ljubica Durlovska, Dr. Nohora Martinez, Peter Chudak, Dr. Christina Bodea, Matt Bladowski, and Paris Carabash.
What a great group of amazing dentists, lawyers, and spouses, eh? I’m sure some of them will be returning when we head down to Jamaica next summer.
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