Our Foundation President W. Michael Kenney was invited to join Dr. Francis G. Serio on a Dental Mission to the Dominican Republic - July 2014
Report and photos submitted by Dr. Kenney
Dr. Frank Serio has been instrumental in developing the very popular program on Volunteerism in Dentistry for the USA Section of the International College of Dentists. I attended his recent seminar in April in Bonita Springs, Florida, where I was extended the opportunity to participate in an upcoming dental mission trip to the Dominican Republic from June 27-July 6, 2014.
Frank initiated this project in 1982 during a one month stay in San Jose de Ocoa with the assistance of the Catholic Medical Mission Board and the local support of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. The program just completed its 33rd year of service to the rural poor of the Dominican Republic. It is amazing how the local relationships that Frank developed during those early years are still in place and remain quite vibrant.
I was able to join Team Ocoa with Frank, referred to as el Jefe or the boss, his daughter who is a second-year medical student, four dentists, four dental students who were returning for the third time, two college seniors, and three Dominican dentists. Five of us arrived a day early with Frank to begin the extensive process of organizing supplies and equipment for the week.
A second group, Team El Cercado, was to arrive on Saturday and would be lead by Baltimore dentists Dr. Steve Pohlhaus and his wife, Dr. Jenny Polhaus. Jenny graduated from dental school at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) and subsequently from the University of Maryland. She met her husband during her participation with the dental mission. This group would see patients at one location in El Cercado, near the Haitian border, over the next week. We would meet with them again in Santo Domingo for a final dinner at the end of the trip.
Our days with Team Ocoa began with an early breakfast and loading trucks at 8:00 AM with two large generators, dental chairs, portable dental units, instruments, and supplies. Each day we traveled to a remote village in the mountains and would take 30-40 minutes to set up a restorative and surgical room in a small schoolhouse with no electricity.
The local health committees and missionaries were responsible for providing transportation, promoting and coordinating patient care, cooking, registration, preparation of instruments, and assisting the dentists. It is noteworthy that many of the Dominican volunteers have assisted with the program for multiple years. Some have been involved for over 30 years, and eight of the volunteers, who helped as children, have become dentists.
Many of the patients presented with rampant caries, advanced periodontal disease, multiple root tips, extreme poverty, marginal nutrition, and a significant lack of access to care. We treated over 450 patients, and did over 640 restorations, 750 extractions, 14 dentures, 15 relines, preventive care, and hundreds of adult and child cleanings.
The monetary value represented by Team Ocoa’s dental treatment was over $250,000. The total financial value of treatment over the past 33 years exceeds 16 million dollars. More importantly, it was inspiring to see how the Dominicans are so happy with so little and to experience their gratitude and appreciation.
I am in awe of what Frank has accomplished over the past 33 years. His leadership, organizational skills, relationships, exhausting work, and dedication are truly amazing. It was an honor to have participated in this project and to witness the spirit of giving of all of the participants. I am most thankful and appreciative to Frank for his outstanding humanitarian efforts and all he does for the USA Section of the International College of Dentists.
W. Michael Kenney, DDS, MS
President, USA Section Foundation
International College of Dentists (ICDF)