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Call of duty

Operation Lone Star

Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry volunteers during Operation Lone Star, with members of the Texas State Guard 

Photo courtesy Dr. Jon Clemetson

By day, they provided dental care in the cafeteria. By night, they slept on military cots in the band room. It’s safe to say TAMHSC-BCD students spent a lot of time at Manzano Middle School during Operation Lone Star in South Texas.

Edward Manzano Middle School is one of 11 middle schools in the Brownsville Independent School District. From August until June, its rooms are filled with sixth- to eighth-graders. But for a few days in July, dental and dental hygiene students from Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry called it home. And work.

From July 23-27, a team of 23 DH2s, D3s and D4s made the trek to the school nestled in the Rio Grande Valley to take part for the first time in Operation Lone Star. Now in its 14th year, Operation Lone Star combines volunteers from the Texas Military Forces, Department of State Health Services, and local, state and federal agencies to provide free dental and medical care to South Texas residents. The total patient count to date tops 100,000.

By day

For TAMHSC-BCD’s part, students provided oral hygiene instruction and performed ultrasonic cleanings, restorative care and extractions. Portable equipment arrived in an 18-wheeler, courtesy of Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical Foundation.

Students coordinated with public health dentists from across the country, in addition to the Texas State Guard, to see upward of 250 patients each day.

By night

On some days patients didn’t leave until 7 p.m., but students didn’t have to travel far for rest. They slept on military cots in the band room. The close quarters, however, presented an interesting challenge, according to Dr. Stephen Crane, associate professor in public health sciences.

"The one thing nobody anticipated was dealing with snoring. We had two offenders on the men’s side; one sounded like an elephant,” Crane says.

One student took a resourceful approach: He spent the remaining nights with a friend to "avoid the din," Crane says.

Attitudes, professionalism leave an impression

Accommodations aside, Dr. Jon Clemetson, clinical assistant professor and president of the Baylor College of Dentistry Alumni Association, was there for part of Operation Lone Star and says he never once heard TAMHSC-BCD students complain.

“I was so impressed with those students that words cannot describe, to have any large group of people thrown together to live and work out of their comfort zones, and conduct themselves with such professionalism,” Clemetson says. “I will never forget this!”

Operation Lone Star

D4 Solomon Gebreyeous and D3 Marie Padua

Photo courtesy Dr. Stephen Crane