The Hollywood-style Coca-Cola sign that Ilya Garibyan DMD 13 and Anya Pukhovitskaya DMD 13 saw in the hills near Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at the start of their dental mission with Cape Cares Central American Relief Efforts foreshadowed the poor state of oral health they would encounter in their work there from October 19 to October 28, 2012.
The two Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine students travelled to the rural location of San Marcos accompanied by Director of Dentists Randall G. Baldwin DMD; David Mallett DDS and his wife; three nurses; one physician assistant; a family doctor; a physical therapist; and translators, among other support workers.
In San Marcos, Garibyan and Pukhovitskaya found a local population living without electricity and dealing with pain as part of daily life due to harsh physical labor and lack of proper medical care. Area children must walk an hour-and-a-half to school.
Cheap and abundant, soda is the primary drink for the population—as the Coca-Cola sign in the hills hints. The predominance of soda is certainly a component of the poor oral health in the population of Honduras. With poor nutrition and limited oral hygiene education, locals are used to losing teeth at a young age. One 17-year-old the students encountered was close to needing complete dentures.
Over four days, the team extracted 600 teeth. Working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Pukhovitskaya using a beach recliner supported by blocks as an examination chair, the two students together saw 30 patients a day. At the end of each day, they were exhausted from the physical effort of pulling the teeth from patients whose ages ranged from 8 to 40 years old.
Dr. Mallet noted in his evaluation of Garibyan’s work on the mission that, “working in a very difficult environment, much good treatment was provided” and regarding Pukhovitskaya’s work that “a professional demeanor was maintained at all times.”
Dr. Baldwin, as the Cape Cares Team Leader, had many positive comments regarding Garibyan and Pukhovitskaya’s efforts.
Dr. Baldwin expressed that “Anya was a delight to have on our one week medical/dental trip to this remote community in southern Honduras. She pitched right in as soon as we arrived and helped with the set-up of our portable dental equipment.” He continued, “She was not afraid or embarrassed to ask for help when she got into a case that she felt was beyond her abilities. I feel this is the mark of a careful practitioner. I am sure she will continue to be a credit to the dental community.”
Of Garibyan’s efforts Dr. Baldwin said, “It was a win situation for us, and I hope for Ilya to be on our one week medical/dental trip to this remote community in southern Honduras.” He continued, “He seemed very confident about his abilities and provided some really valuable services for the patients including several surgical procedures. He worked well with the team of physicians, nurses and auxiliaries. I am sure he will also be a credit to the dental community.”
Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter also expressed praise for both students: “Ilya and Anya are exemplary students who have made all of us at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine proud by their efforts on this mission trip to deliver oral health care to those in dire need. On behalf of the entire School, I commend Ilya and Anya on their excellent work in San Marcos.”
After their experience helping the people surrounding San Marcos, both Garibyan and Pukhovitskaya are looking forward to participating in future international dental missions. In addition to helping people in urgent need of dental care, the mission was an excellent opportunity to enhance clinical skills. Said Garibyan, “If you can do it there, you can do it pretty much anywhere.”