Ann Arbor, MI — May 6, 2011 — Three dental students who just graduated from the U-M School of Dentistry said they won’t forget providing dental care in Honduras during their spring break.
Stephen Mancewicz, Jon Hekman, and Julia Latham spent four days in the village of Tocoa near the Caribbean Sea, about 135 miles northeast of the nation’s capitol, Tegucigalpa. “We did a little of everything, but mostly restorations (fillings) and extractions,” said Mancewicz, who was accompanied by his father, Dr. Gary Mancewicz, who earned his dental degree from U-M in 1976.
Working with Honduran dentists, the group treated between 750 and 800 patients, some as young as three or four years old. A school auditorium served as an open-air clinic where patients were treated each morning beginning at eight o’clock. “Some patients told us they were up at five o’clock so they could get to the clinic for treatment,” Hekman said.
“Up to one-third of the patients said this was the first time they were being examined by a dentist,” Latham said. She added that many children had significant decay from drinking sugary water that was readily accessible.
Students Gain Confidence
The dental students said their experiences helped them when they returned to the School of Dentistry.
“I gained a lot of confidence helping so many in a short amount of time,” Hekman said. Latham agreed, adding, “It was very rewarding to be able to treat so many patients and to see how grateful they were for our services.” Mancewicz said time management in this setting “was definitely a good way to get ready for my board examinations. I think I did more fillings in four days than I did all semester,” he said with a smile.
Gary Mancewicz said it was his fifth mission trip to a Third World country. “Every one of them has been so rewarding. But this one was special,” he said, “because I was able to work with my son and mentor other students as we provided dental care to so many.” Praising the students for their enthusiasm, he added the dental students not only had to work efficiently, but also had to learn how to improvise with available dental tools and materials.
“I told the students that dentistry is a very gratifying profession because you can relieve pain and put a smile on faces, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on,” he said. Reflecting on his experiences with the dental students and his education at the School of Dentistry in the 1970s, Mancewicz said, “I was glad to see that their training is as good now as it was when I was a student at Michigan.”
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:
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