The trip was part of the International Externship Program, which provides students the opportunity to travel outside the United States and provide dental care in nontraditional settings and within new cultures
Six senior students and two faculty members from Oregon Institute of Technology’s (Oregon Tech) dental hygiene program in Klamath Falls traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica earlier this month to provide dental care to underserved communities in rural areas.
The trip was part of the International Externship Program (IEP), which provides students the opportunity to travel outside the United States and provide dental care in nontraditional settings and within new cultures. The goal is to not only provide much needed dental care to underserved populations, but also provide students an opportunity to develop confidence, skills and a passion for community service. These skills can benefit them in future work settings such as public health, dental missions, rural health and mobile dentistry. This is a commitment by each team member, as they must each raise $2,700 through private funds, donations and fundraising events.
The 2019 IEP team members were Breanna Bass, Shayla Engelbrecht, Kailey Flockoi, Melanie Fournet, Megan Schrock and Allison Wood. Faculty instructors coordinating and traveling with the students were Jeannie Bopp and Lois Goeres. Rural sites where clinics were set up in churches or community buildings were selected by Great Shape, Inc. Students learned to deal with hot, humid conditions, power outages, old equipment, and long bus rides to the sites on very crude narrow roads. The Oregon Tech team worked with dental students and faculty from UCLA and Midwestern University to form teams at each site.
“I am very proud of our dental hygiene students who showed compassion, composure and professionalism, not only with the Jamaican people, but also their teams, classmates and instructors,” shared Dental Hygiene instructor Jeannie Bopp. “The people of Jamaica were extremely grateful and appreciative of the care they received. They thanked us with gifts of coconuts, avocados, dancing and traditional Jamaican food. They had little to give but their smiles and appreciation were reward enough.
“Through this trip, the students experienced the power of compassion, teamwork, and giving of their knowledge and skills to change the lives of others less fortunate,” added Bopp. “They will be amazing leaders upon graduation as they apply this experience to their own communities.”
In the students’ own words:
“The trip had it all, work, sweat, tears, laughs, fun and memories that will last a lifetime.” Allison Wood from Klamath Falls, Ore.
“I will forever cherish this experience and everyone who helped me get there. I hope to someday be able to provide services like this again. It has made me realize how much I love this life of mine and cherish my dedication to this healthcare profession.” Megan Schrock from Philomath, Ore.
“We have served hundreds of Jamaicans this week and it has made my heart full.” Kailey Flockoi from Gold Hill, Ore.
“The people of Jamaica were amazing and the most appreciative people I have ever met! This experience taught me many valuable lessons.” Melanie Fournet from Newberg, Ore.
To learn more about dental hygiene majors at Oregon Tech or about our Dental Hygiene clinic, call 541.885.1277 or visit www.oit.edu/academics/degrees/dental-hygiene.