Since 1987, faculty and students from the University of Florida College of Dentistry have made an annual mission trip to Las Matas de Farfán in the Dominican Republic. The rural area is very remote and residents have extremely limited access to dental care. In June 2013, a group of 31 students and five dentists set off for the annual, week-long trip.
Participants provided emergency dental treatment to those in need, ranging from young children to the elderly. Each day, dental students and supervising dentists were split into five groups and traveled to various communities around the area. Students, under faculty guidance and supervision, provided services such as dental extractions and oral hygiene instructions in Spanish. Groups traveled to local churches, schools and orphanages throughout the region. One group journeyed three hours into the mountains to treat patients, many of whom had never before seen a dentist.
In Las Matas de Farfán, the group was staged in the town center with generators and portable dental units so they were also able to provide restorative dental treatment. During four days of hard work and long hours, the mission trip group treated more than 600 patients.
The Dominican Republic mission trip, started in 1987, is led by Timothy Garvey, D.M.D., a member of the college’s Class of 1980 and also a member of the college faculty. Dental students who participate provide an invaluable service to local residents, return with a greater understanding of the culture and beauty of the country, and often a desire to continue to serve those less fortunate than themselves.
“We are thankful to everyone who donated to our trip and made this possible. We hope it will continue for years to come,” said Olga Luaces, a member of the D.M.D. class of 2015 and the student director for this year’s Dominican Republic trip.
Thank you to everyone who took their time and energy to volunteer for the trip including Garvey, four volunteer dentists and 31 D.M.D. students. The dentists who traveled with the group are Dr. Ronald Askeland, Dr. Ericka Lowe Bennett, Dr. Thomas Bierman and Dr. Robert Miller. Volunteers from the class of 2014 are Rajiv Kalra, Marcela Solarte and Angel Vasquez. Volunteers from the class of 2015 are Pedro Albisu, Govinda Allin, Stephanie Archbold, Shaun Bullard, TuTrinh Do, Tejan Elmariah, Desmond Foster, Sarah Frampton,
Ann Hoang, Erik Holz, Patrick Lolo, Olga Luaces, John McAninch, An Nguyen, Darshan Patel, Alejandro Piedra, Pablo Prado, Evelyn Ramirez-Lee, Tamara Santos, Courtney Sargent, Priya Shah, Ashley Tate, Sarah Wyrick and Ali Yazback. Volunteers from the class of 2016 are Tirzah Brittlebank, Tony Nader, Mairelys Onate and Jimmy Orphee.
If you are interested in making a donation to this annual mission trip, please visit the trip website.
Submitted by: Olga Luaces, D.M.D. Class of 2015UF and student director for the 2013 Dominican Republic Mission Trip.