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Mission Trip: "Jamaican" more smiles

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One aspect about dentistry that attracts people who decide to join the field is the ability to give back and help those in need. Many schools offer students opportunities to give back via mission trips. SIU-SDM organizes a mission trip to Jamaica every summer which gives the dental students a chance to practice dentistry in a different, and often more challenging, setting, as well as helps the people of the Jamaican community improve their oral health. The students who go on the mission trip are typically third and fourth year dental students. The third year dental students learn quite a bit from this mission trip since this is often the first time they are practicing dentistry on people instead of mannequins. They come back from the mission trip more confident in their skills and ready to start their journey in the clinic. The main procedure performed on the trip is extractions which can be very nerve-wrecking for a student who has never extracted teeth before. However, since the people of Jamaica are very friendly and desperate of healthcare, they are less fearful of this procedure than people you will encounter in the clinic. Thus, it is less stressful on the dental student. Also, for the fourth year students, this mission trip is a great way to expand your skills by performing procedures in a different setting where there isn’t much technology. Let’s not forget, participating on a mission trip is a great résumé builder too. 

The dental mission trip is organized by Dr. McLeod who is from Jamaica and is a professor at SIU-SDM. There is an annual fundraiser held in St. Louis which helps raise funds for the trip and for the construction of the dental/healthcare facility in Kew Park, Jamaica which will serve that population in need. The mission trip started in 2000, and as of 2014, the trip has helped improve the oral health of 14,000+ adults and children. I look forward to attending this trip and getting the opportunity to travel to a different country and broadening my skills as a future dentist. Having the opportunity to give back to others in need is one of the main reasons I chose to join the dental field, and when I graduate from dental school, I plan on attending other mission trips all over the world. I encourage everyone to attend at least one mission trip in their life.