As a regular leader and participant in mission work, Dr. David Paul knows firsthand the challenges of bringing oral health to poverty-stricken areas around the world.
That’s why Dr. Paul, D89 and associate professor in Diagnosis and Health Promotion, has teamed up with the Nashoba Valley Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Santo Domingo Innovador to create a mobile dental clinic for patients in the Dominican Republic.
“This clinic will be able to reach patients where they live,” Dr. Paul said. “We’ll be able to treat far more people this way.”
The clinic will be designed out of an old recreational vehicle, modified with dental operative tools and stations. When operational, the clinic will be able to come to patients who live many miles from the nearest dental practice, and who are currently forced walk for hours to be able to attend an appointment.
The clinic is part of the “We Are One” joint project of the Nashoba Valley Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Santo Domingo Innovador, and other participating clubs. The project strives to provide free dental services to underserved families in the Dominican Republic’s San Felipe area. Dr. Paul became involved with the mission through Richard Simon, who is both the vice president of the Nashoba Valley Rotary Club and one of Dr. Paul’s patients. The project organizers are on track to raise the $50,000 needed to complete outfitting the mobile clinic, with the club matching all donations received. Those that wish to donate to the fund can do so by accessing the club’s website.
Though the mobile clinic is not yet complete, Dr. Paul will travel to the San Felipe area August 3-13 to treat patients out of the mobile clinic’s base of operations, Clinica SODHAIDESA in Santo Domingo Norte. He has enlisted Mark Schlam and Kim Kocak, both D14, as well as general practice residents Ernest “Jamie” Holden and Marion Hernon, both D12. The group will be working with Dr. Frantz Compere, the founder and Executive Director of Clinica SODHAIDESA, who has a distinguished record of organizing and executing humanitarian efforts in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“We’ll be doing fillings, cleanings, extractions, fluoride treatments, basic perio,” Dr. Paul said. “As many procedures as we can.”
This will be Dr. Paul’s 21st dental mission trip, and his 15th with Tufts students. He said the biggest challenge is the logistical organization of such an operation: dealing with substandard facilities, poor equipment conditions and underdeveloped roads, while still ensuring that all care given is at the high standard of care practiced in TUSDM clinics. Despite the challenges involved, he said, the trips are incredibly valuable, particularly for the students that attend with him.
“I think the most important thing is exposing our students to this work,” he said. “It’s kind of like, ‘if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime’…I want to perpetuate that involvement, teach students how to be flexible, how to work with little equipment, how to create their own groups. A lot of them go on to do just that.”