Arctic Circle Externship Expands Skills and Awareness

Lindzy Goodman DMD 14 with “future dentist” and patient in Alaska
Lindzy Goodman DMD 14 with “future dentist” and patient in Alaska

Between August 26 and September 6, 2013, Lindzy Goodman DMD 14 visited Barrow, Alaska, a town of approximately 4,000 people, and Wainwright, an Inupiat Eskimo village of only about 500, on an elective externship. Goodman describes her trip to rural Alaska as one of the best experiences she’s had in dental school, if not the best. In the remote Arctic towns she visited, Goodman joined efforts to improve oral health care in the area’s majority Inupiat population. She learned about the unique health care obstacles that people in the region face while significantly refining and expanding her skills in dentistry.

Goodman’s trip to Alaska was arranged through the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) Global & Population Health Office and funded by the Indian Health Service Dental Externships program, which provides an opportunity for professional experience and exploration of the possibility for a career with the Indian Health Service.

She spent her first week in the town of Barrow at Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital (SSMH). Goodman did extractions, saw pediatric patients, and performed dental procedures at the small hospital. She enjoyed interacting with the indigenous residents of the town, inside and outside of the dental clinic.

For her second week in Alaska, Goodman traveled by bush plane—a small airplane commonly used in Alaska and other areas where ground transportation is infeasible—with dentist Dr. Jennifer Domagalski and two dental assistants to the Inupiat village of Wainwright. Goodman worked twelve-hour days in a makeshift dental clinic there, where she saw all Inupiat patients, many of whom were children. The overwhelming majority had Early Childhood Caries. The team was also able to visit a school in Wainwright, where they applied fluoride varnish to students’ teeth.

Goodman said, “By the end of my last week, I was exhausted. I had done so much and met so many people. The amount of dentistry that I performed improved my skill level to such an extent that I arrived back at GSDM with much more confidence.” She continued, “More than that, I learned about the great need for health services in this part of the nation.”

Goodman expressed her concern for the overall health of the communities she visited. She noted that the Western food that had penetrated their diet was causing health problems, like diabetes and dental caries. She cited Dr. Domagalski’s “Stop the Pop” campaign as an example of “Education [being] a key component in increasing the quality of life for the native population.”

Goodman summarized: “My Barrow externship was a truly unique and rewarding experience. The externship exposed me to the beauty of the Arctic and its people, all the while making me a better dentist. I recommend it to any third year dental student considering an elective externship.”

She also thanked GSDM’s “outstanding Extramural Programs staff members Dr. Michelle Henshaw, Ms. Sharon Boyle, and Ms. Kathleen Held for allowing me this opportunity.”

Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter said, “I am very proud of Lindzy, as well as all of the other students who participate in these externships. These experiences play an important role in the education of our students at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.”

Photos are available on Facebook and Flickr.