Global Service Learning - Haiti

As the nation with the lowest GDP in the western hemisphere and a highly vulnerable political and natural climate, Haiti is a country with great need. It is reported that approximately 300 dentists serve the entire Haitian population: upwards of 10 million individuals. Needless to say, dental student volunteers are extremely well received and are considered valuable assets for providing oral health care and education. With more than 35 years of combined experience serving Haiti, trip supervisors Dr. Carlson and Dr. Steele are invaluable in helping students understand how to best provide treatment to the local patients. Students are able to treat patients through the in-country sponsor, which has a medical and dental clinic in Vaudreuil with which we collaborate.

a lush Haitian landscape

IUSD has developed a strong working relationship with the North Haiti Dental Association and annually shares a cross-cultural social and educational event with a group of Haitian dentists in Cap Haitien. The course’s favorable student to faculty ratio allows a high degree of interaction, teaching, and learning opportunities for trip participants. In addition, the course’s focus on direct clinic experience and implementation of a deeper understanding of Haiti’s rich history, language, and culture therefore grants students an immersive and life-altering experience.


student doctors pose as a group

“This year is my 3rd trip with the GSL team to Haiti. Even so, there were lots of surprises and learning opportunities. We came in on Friday and went to the Citadelle on Saturday morning and met with the Cap Haitian Dentist Association in the evening. On Sunday we went to church then to Cormier Beach Hotel, where we enjoyed some yet-to-be earned relaxation.

Monday was our first clinic day. We headed to Port-Margot, about 1 ½ hours away. The mission there includes a dental clinic, a medical clinic, and an elementary school run by Haitians under a group of Dominican Nuns associated with St. Malachy’s parish in the States. We arrived around 10:00 am. It took us one hour and fifteen minutes to set up and our first patient was in the chair by 11:15 am. As a group, we saw a total of 30 patients. I was able to see 4. 3 of them were extraction patients and the last one was a prophy patient.

student dentists treat patients in a local clinic

For my first patient, I extracted tooth #18. It was done with a new technique that I learned from Dr. Steele. It consisted of cutting the gingival fibers with a periosteal elevator, grabbing the forceps and rotating the tooth to the left and to the right to break the collagen fibers while expanding the bone. Then, a luxator was used to luxate the tooth, followed by left and right movement and toward each line angle until the tooth is extracted. That extraction went very well. For my 2nd patient, tooth #32 needed to be extracted. The crown came with the distal root. I had to dig the mesial root out. The 3rd patient had a very infected tooth #31 with a sinus tract on the buccal gingiva with pus coming out. This extraction was very easy. For my 4th patient, it was a prophy case with a lot of stain but minimal calculus. That went fast. It was a successful day. I hit all my block/local infiltrations and was very happy with the day’s results.

This year was my last year as a student.  I always enjoy learning from Dr. Steele and Dr. Carlson on these trips, because having such quick and easy access to faculty is a treat compared with the IUSD clinics.  Surprisingly though, even though I spent the first 23 years of my life in Haiti, I still learn a lot from my patients in Haiti.  My people exemplify the meaning of resilience, patience, and how to be courageous despite limited opportunities.  They motivate me to do the best I can with the opportunities with which I have been blessed.  I have no excuses!”

Dino Dieudonne, 2018