Personal Growth Through Service
A third year dental student at USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry, my son, Joshua Weinstein is passionate about his career choice. Josh is always excited and motivated to work and to help others. I took it with a grain of salt the first time he mentioned that he would like for me to accompany him on a dental outreach mission in Nairobi.
“This experience and opportunity to do good for people will change your life, Dad”, he said. He had spent time in Africa before, providing dental care and humanitarian aid to some of the poorest communities in the world. As the idea began to take hold in my mind, I began to realize that the scale of this outreach project was much greater than the ones I had participated on previously in Mexico and other countries. I also decided that having an opportunity to positively impact the lives and health of people who had never even seen a dentist or, in many cases, never used a toothbrush, was something I could not let go. Having the opportunity to work on a project like this, side by side with my son, seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I had to go.
Dental Supply Companies Help The Cause
In the weeks leading up to the mission trip, I was able to secure generous donations of supplies and instrumentation which
would be needed to provide these patients with safe and comfortable oral surgery services. Through the generosity of Colgate, Henry Schein and ACE Surgical, I was given many supplies that would be needed to take care of patients in the temporary clinic with the same high standard of care and safety that I provide in my own Dallas oral surgery practice. What didn’t come in through donations I provided myself, and relied upon the supply donations which were made to the Outreach Project through corporate support and private donations.
In mid-November, I began to tell some of my patients here in Dallas about the mission trip. I was getting really excited about going. A patient of mine with familial ties in Nairobi told me that she knew about the dental clinic. She knew people who were traveling from up to 100 miles away to get in line for the clinic. Some of her coworkers at a local bank were also from Nairobi, and I began to receive regular updates about the excitement building over there in anticipation of our arrival. Knowing that people were coming from so far away, a month in advance, to have the opportunity to receive professional dental services was very humbling. I awaited our departure date with great anticipation.
The Road To Nairobi
Traveling to Nairobi is no small feat. After almost 2 full days, two long intercontinental flights, we arrived tired, but excited. The clinic was being housed in an open-air structure with one wall and three curtains. Normally used as a church, the structure was literally transformed overnight into a modern and functional dental clinic. The supplies and much of the equipment had not arrived, and were delayed 2 full days. Somehow, we were able to scrounge up what we needed to take care of those who had been waiting with patient anticipation to receive dental care for the first time in their lives. The participants of the USC Dental Humanitarian Outreach Project consist of students and faculty of the dental school. A student run organization, the Kenya Project is their largest endeavor so far, and is also the largest dental outreach project in Kenya’s history.
I Am So Proud To Have Been A Part Of This
In all, 51 dental professionals and 37 support people spent one week in the second largest slum in Kenya, providing quality dental care, hygiene instruction, supplies and treatment to some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I am so proud to have been one of them.
In the coming weeks, I plan to share the experiences and insights I gained during this week of service. I hope you enjoy reading about it. If you would like more information about future missions organized by USC Dental Humanitarian Outreach, or to make a gift, follow this link.