Nicaragua student trip
Ten dental students donated a week of their summer break to care for patients in Nicaragua as part of a dental mission trip.
D3 students Amanda Krysiak, Lindsey Loveless, Shivangi Mody, Sherry Oung, Purvi Patel and Monica Yavrom traveled to Granada, Nicaragua, July 12 – 19. Also traveling were D4 students Jason Koesters, Alana Macalik, Shelby Nelson and Christen Massey. Massey’s mother, Pam, attended to help sterilize instruments.
D3 student Patel says she participated in the trip because she’d like to organize dental mission trips after she establishes her practice. This includes mission trips to her homeland India, where her uncle is a dentist.
“I’ve always wanted to do dental mission work, but I’ve been unsure how to go about it, how to set it up,” Patel says. “The trip helped me see how a dental mission trip is arranged, so it was the first step in a ladder for me, so to speak.”
The students spent a week providing care to patients and teamed up to do extractions. The mission trip was based at a community center similar to a YMCA, and some students would interact with the patients’ children while their parents were being treated. The students brought books and toys to the children, who taught them Spanish while learning some English in return.
“What I’ll remember most from the trip is the people, especially the kids,” Patel says. “They experience incredible poverty but are happy with what they have; they make the most of it and enjoy their lives. It makes you regain touch with your own reality, review all that you have, after you see people who are so content with what little they have.
“The trip became part of me,” she says.
Dr. Michael McWatters, assistant professor in restorative sciences, proposed the mission trip. He contacted Leeanna Bartlett, public health sciences assistant professor and social services director, to recruit students for it. McWatters says students’ response exceeded expectations so much, they had to limit the number of participants.
McWatters had participated in a mission trip abroad earlier this year, so his former colleague, Austin-based dentist Dr. Wayne Radwanski accompanied the students to Nicaragua. Both McWatters and Radwanski have previously traveled on medical missions sponsored by this trip’s sponsor, Christian Medical Missions Inc.
Radwanski calls the trip “a win-win situation for both the Nicaraguans and the students.” He also expresses admiration for the students’ passion to help others.
“What a joy it was to be around such enthusiasm and excitement in their love of dentistry!” Radwanski says. “They are special students, very helpful and compassionate.
“On our last night together, the students and I visited about the need to continue to serve the very poorest of the poor and never forget our obligation to give our time and talents to the less fortunate,” he says. “Their responses were overwhelmingly, ‘We’re all in!’ Now I know 11 more passionate people in our profession that will have their hands up when they are called to serve.”