IUSD students have been treating patients in Ecuador since 2005, and each year, a group of approximately 10 students and faculty members provide free dental services to local Ecuadorian communities and highland areas. The course is heavily oriented towards clinic work and empowering both patients and villagers through oral health education, while students have the unique opportunity to work alongside in-country professionals. Specifically, IUSD travels with a local dentist when treating patients, and students are able to collaborate with doctors and nurses to not only develop key teamworking skills but provide long-term care for patients rather than a quick fix. Moreover, students gain incomparable decision-making skills regarding treatment approaches. A deeper understanding of the Amerindian culture is also emphasized through educational excursions, rendering the trip to be rated highly by past participants in categories of diversity understanding, overseas influence and student learning experience.
“… we set up a clinic in a church in Magdalena, which is up the mountain a little from where we are staying. The drive up was about 45 minutes, but it was such a beautiful drive. The mountains, dotted with cows, horses, sheep, and dogs, were tall and extended as far as the eye can see. The sun was out, and everything looked picturesque, even when the clouds rolled in and cast shadows among the dense trees.
When we got to the clinic the church was mostly empty, and we brought in long benches to set up all the units and supplies. It was actually quite dusty at first. After setup, I volunteered to go to a nearby school to apply fluoride varnish for the kids there, which was really fun. The kids were so adorable and cooperative, and we could tell a lot of them didn’t like the varnish, but they still let us apply it and happily accepted the stickers and toothbrushes we gave them afterwards.
Our clinic team also works really well together, and everyone was always ready to help out in any way they could. I think that was key to allowing the clinic to run so smoothly. The faculty are also all extremely helpful, and truly want us to do what’s best for the patient, which is awesome. The translators we have with us are also great; they are so easy to work with and seem genuinely interested in dentistry and understanding what we are doing.
After clinic, the people at the church made us some bread as a thank you for our time, which was very kind of them since they didn’t need to do that. We all really appreciated the gesture, and of course, the food! The people that we met have been so gracious and kind, and I’m so thankful for all the effort they’ve put into making us feel welcome. They’ve been understanding and eager to fix any dental problems they have, and they’ve been incredibly patient with me when I’m trying to use my broken Spanish, or when I’m asking them to please wait for a translator, so I can make sure I’m conveying information correctly. Today has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to tomorrow!”
Sireen Yang, 2019