Three fourth-year dental students: Melissa Lowry, Dee Gulis, and Lucinda Barry recently returned from a trip to Poptun, Guatemala with LIGA International. The trip took place from January 12 to 23. While in Guatemala the students, along with alum Kevin Acone DMD 07, and trip organizer Dr. Fred Kalinoff, spent five days treating patients of various ages in the Dental Clinic at the Poptun Hospital.
(l-r) Dan Barry, Melissa Lowry DMD 12,
Dee Gulis DMD 12, Dr. Fred Kalinoff,
Lucinda Barry DMD 12, Kevin Acone DMD 07,
and Tricia Kalinoff
Ordinarily there is one local dentist who sees patients at the Poptun Hospital in the mornings, but his schedule is a bit unpredictable. So when the GSDM volunteers arrived at the Poptun Hospital the local residents turned out in force for a chance to be treated.
Said Lowry, “We worked five days at the hospital, working from eight to ten hours per day. We rotated patients between the three of us and performed a combination of extractions and restorations. We had to work with limited instruments and supplies and it was difficult treating at times because people had such a great need and there was not enough time to fix everything.”
The students estimated that they treated between 150 and 200 patients. They performed most of the treatment, but Drs. Acone and Kalinoff were always on hand to oversee and assist if necessary. Many of the patients presented with cases the students had never seen before.
Dr. Kalinoff explained one such case, “Every year we see a couple of very unusual cases, and this year was no exception. We were asked by the emergency room staff to see a patient with an abscessed tooth. We agreed and a few minutes later a wheelchair arrived with a lady of about 40 who looked more dead than alive.” Dr. Kalinoff continued, “She had a draining abscess from the angle of her right mandible that had created a hole about three centimeters by two centimeters with copious amounts of drainage. The right side of her face was swollen from above the ear down into her neck and the swelling was rock hard. She had a fever of about 102, with considerable lassitude, and was verbally unresponsive. Our main concern was that the swelling in her neck would soon cause her to suffocate.”
For this patient Dr. Acone cleaned the wound and then worked with the Emergency Room staff to arrange for IV antibiotic treatment, which the patient was kept on for the entire five days that the group worked at the hospital. Dr. Kalinoff said, “By the time we left 90% of the swelling was gone and there was talk of sending her down to Guatemala City to eventually close the wound.”
Needless to say, this trip was a learning experience for the students. Lowry said, “It was great having the freedom to operate as a dentist but the accessibility of help if it was needed. We saw so many different cases that we haven’t seen before.“
Added Gulis, “Dr. Acone was amazing to work with and a great person to lead a trip like this.”
Also on the trip were Dr. Kalinoff’s wife, Tricia, and Barry’s husband, Dan, who the group affectionately nicknamed “Dycal Dan”. Dycal Dan acted as dental assistant, photographer, and took care of the instruments. Barry said the trip exceeded both of their expectations and the others agreed. They all hope to get involved with this trip again and to be able to play a role in expanding the outreach efforts so that the residents of Poptun see a marked improvement in their overall oral health.
Said Dr. Kalinoff, “I cannot say enough about these students. Dee, Melissa, and Lucida were all tremendously hard and willing workers. They showed very good knowledge of their chosen field and will be leaders in the dental industry in the future.”