North Texas Dentistry Volume 9 Issue 3 2019 ISSUE 3 DE - Page 7

An hour or so outside Guatemala’s bustling capital city, a bus laden with dental students and other volunteers rumbles along the dusty, potholed road toward San Raimundo, a town in the rural highlands that is home to about 35,000 residents. The passengers onboard chat excitedly in anxious anticipation of what waits for them at their destination, but two volunteers in particular are spending the long ride getting to know each other. One is Dr. Bob McNeill, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who practices in Garland, the other is Dr. Stephanie Briggs, a bright young periodontist who is in the middle of what is essentially a seven-day-long job interview. A few months earlier, Dr. Briggs signed on to join the 43 rd annual trip led by Dr. T. Bob Davis to provide dental services to the impoverished and underserved residents in and around San Raimundo. She explains, “Dr. McNeill was preparing to go on the mission trip and invited me to join him as sort of a working interview. We agreed the trip would give us a chance to really share our thoughts about what working together could look like. After a couple of conversations with my family, I decided to go.” On the way to San Raimundo, the two doctors shared their life experiences, goals and aspirations, and philosophy of care. They also discussed a vision of how they might work together to cre- ate a practice that would benefit them both personally and pro- fessionally, while optimizing patient care and helping their referring offices. Another patient, a 50-year-old woman, had traveled miles to receive badly needed dental treatment. Her teeth, particularly in the front, had been impacted by years of poor oral health and traumatic injury. The volunteers were able to extract her front teeth and fabricated a removable partial to restore her smile. San Raimundo is a world away from North Texas in more than a geographical sense, but caring for patients there also brought home the fact that our commonalities outweigh our differences. Body language and emotions are universal. “One little girl who came into the clinic was trembling with fear,” Dr. Briggs recalls. “She was surrounded by unfamiliar faces and scary noises, and it was obviously intimidating. I took her by the hand and used my broken Spanish to calm her, and ultimately, she did very well.” “The San Raimundo trip was a humbling experience. I saw such adversity and hardship there ― but there is also real beauty in witnessing a different way of life, and seeing people whose lives move at a different pace than our lives at home in the U.S. Treat- ing patients at the clinic was hard work, but I received so much more than I gave. I left smiling about the important care we pro- vided and the many blessings we have.” The trip also provided Dr. Briggs and Dr. McNeill with an incomparable opportunity to develop an understanding of their At the dental clinic in San Raimundo, the 43-member volunteer team treated about 800 patients, including some who traveled for hours to reach the site from remote villages in the surround- ing highlands. What they witnessed was both eye-opening and life-changing. Dr. McNeill recalls, “In Guatemala, as in many other developing countries, cheap, sugary foods are abundant and healthy, nutri- tional options are scarce. Many of the children we treated had severely compromised dentition and didn’t own basic necessi- ties like a toothbrush. I remember one frightened little six-year- old boy who was in pain and needed an extraction. With the help of our translators and more than a few hugs, we were able to comfort him and get him to accept the care he needed.” Dr. McNeill, Dr. Briggs and their team collaborate to provide the care that is best for their patients. | NORTH TEXAS DENTISTRY 7