Saturday, July 13, 2024

Smile Clinic continues at Holy Cross

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The San Pedro Smile Center Dental Clinic, located at the Holy Cross Anglican School (HCAS) in the San Mateo Area of San Pedro Town, hosted its second session of dental services to Belizean children and other members of the community on March 2nd and concluded March 5th. Doctor Mark Johnson of Annandale, Minnesota USA, founded the clinic in 2005 and has continued this volunteer effort along with his wife, Dr. Joan Johnson, ever since. The second session was meant to include the biggest volunteer group; however, several volunteers had their trip canceled by their university due to concerns of coronavirus. Currently, no cases of coronavirus have been reported in Belize, and the transmission risk remains low for the region.
The six volunteers that made it split into teams and saw patients at both the Polyclinic and Holy Cross. Dr. Michelle Dennison, a second-year volunteer with the Smile Clinic, said that the experience was good but challenging considering the shortage of volunteers. However, she said they adapted quickly, and although they saw fewer patients, they ensured excellent service and care to all. She said the experience was rewarding, as they get to help ease the kids into early dental care, which she considers integral during childhood. “I think a lot of the times, if you don’t have early dental care, you just don’t value it and get all sorts of problems down the road.” Dr. James Kline said it was his fourth year volunteering, and he echoed the sentiments shared by Dr. Dennison. “It’s rewarding seeing some of the kids that were actually nervous coming in and have a good experience and hopefully not have a problem going to the dentist in the future,” he said, adding that the Smile Clinic is a perfect opportunity not only for him to provide care, but to also be a learning experience for the children and dispel any fears they may have about going to the dentist.

Dr. Aaron Coast and Dr. Shawn Vausten are both eager to return next year. In her first year volunteering, Dr. Coast said the experience was a chance for her to use her talents to help other people, especially those who cannot normally get the assistance they need, and that she also learned a great deal by working in a new country and seeing techniques not normally used in the dental hygiene field. Dr. Vausten is a second-year volunteer and said his favorite part has been seeing former patients keep up with their hygiene practices. The third and final session for this year’s smile clinic will be from March 10th to the 12th at the Holy Cross Anglican School. Dr. Johnson and his volunteers encourage everyone who could benefit from these services to come out for the third session.

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