April 5, 2012
Inna Piskorska, a third year dental student at the UWSoD, was recently in Haiti with a group of dentists and students. The group was hosted by Medical Relief International, an organization formed by WSDA member Dr. Mike Karr. Piskorska approached the WSDA News about a story of her travels and experiences while in Haiti, and we asked her to start by blogging about her experiences while she was there. This is her second report.
The trip was an eye-opening, educational, cultural and inspirational experience.
There is a huge need for dental care in Haiti and we tried to help as many patients as we could. In five days our team helped 178 patients. As students, we had a chance to use and solidify our skills, and provide dental care to people in an area where the need is great. Dr. Mark Walker was very helpful and supportive throughout the trip. He was a great mentor and teacher for Kjersten and I.
The patients we saw travelled great distances, often on foot — few have cars or transportation. One patient tried to extract his tooth himself, however he only removed the crown and left infected root tips. Many Haitians don’t have money to pay for dental care, but even those who do see dentists who charge less because they lack the education, training and equipment to provide proper dental care, or cut costs by not providing anesthesia. They were fearful because of their experiences with dentists and the pain they associated with dental visits, so it was exciting to show them that dentistry could be pain-free. We saw many patients who were in pain because of poorly performed dentistry, such as leaving root tips following an extraction. They were grateful for the work we did on their behalf, and being able to help them was truly rewarding.
Because we had so many patients in need, we tried to limit their care to the two most pressing issues —though it was not uncommon to have a patient describe one problem, only to find another, more urgent need upon examination. Though I wish we could have treated all the patients needing care, that would have been impossible — there were always more patients than we could see. I hope in the future there will be more dentists and dental students willing to volunteer their time so that we can accommodate all of the patients.
In addition to providing dental care, we were introduced to Haitian culture. After hard work days, we would spend time with local people learning about their culture and their lives on the island — they were very nice, social and outgoing. While there was an obvious language barrier — we didn’t speak Creole and the Haitians didn’t speak english, we often were able to communicate using gestures (Paul, one of our team members, spoke Creole and was able to translate for us when needed. He was a valuable member of our team!).
We also had an opportunity to interact with 11 sweet, orphaned children in the care of a local church run by Pastor Zenas and his wife, who believe that the future of Haiti is in children’s hands. They’re investing time and energy with the orphans and all the children in the community — teaching them important values such as honesty, respect, and the value of education. Pastor Zenas hopes to expand the orphanage and their work there, provided they can raise the resources to make it happen. I am very happy that I had a chance to be part of the dental team (Dr. Mark Walker, Kjersten Otterholt, Paul Hartt, John Judd, Mike Thompson and Bruce McMartin) in Ferrier, Haiti and would encourage others to do so in the future!
I would like to thank people and organizations who helped to make this trip happen: Pacific Continental Bank, George Englund of Issaquah Dental Lab, Dr. Richard Ansong and Dr. Rod Wentworth.