Doctors on a Mission
To Drs. Josh and Rachel, the only sad and disappointing part of this mission: not enough daylight or days to treat all of the patients who travel far and wide to receive their dental care.
After receiving advance word that the dentists are coming to Haiti, villagers have been known to walk for days from their own villages to far locations, seeking dental and oral health care, as virtually none is available other than when the U.S. doctors come on their annual trip.
Dedicated to improving the health condition of the Haitian people since 1997, the Temple Haiti Club is run almost entirely by dental student participants. Dr. Josh Bresler, (shown below with his wife Dr. Tracey Bresler, while he was being honored among the country’s best young dentists – Incisal Edge 40 Under 40) has been its leader since 2007.
How Does He Do It?
Dr. Josh Bresler, President of Doc Bresler’s Cavity Busters, and a Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry advisor and part-time faculty member, went on his first Haiti trip in 2002 as a junior dental student.
Today, when not working alongside his family at the seven locations of Doc Bresler’s Cavity Busters the Board Certified Pediatric dentist travels with the group every year. He assists with the legal and logistical details, including travel arrangements and communication with the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) a partner in the program.
Four doctors and 10 dental students just returned from treating approximately 1,200 patients in many remote villages, where they extracted nearly 5,000 teeth in makeshift clinics.
Without the generous gifts of sponsors and donations, as well as the time, devotion, experience and skills of volunteer faculty and the Temple Haiti Club, those patients would not have experienced the well-deserved care they received.
In order to secure the more than $20,000 needed to fund the trip, the students and faculty organize a variety of fundraising events throughout the year, and then collect and pack of all the equipment, supplies and food the group will need for the duration of the one week stay in Haiti. The annual trip is now so popular, that students and faculty vie for the opportunity to be part of this annual give-back mission.
The faculty and students travel from the U.S. to Port-au-Prince, where they then take an eight-hour bus ride to the HHF headquarters, located in the small town of Jeremie. The HHF operates as their hub, and serves as their home-away-from-home where they live dorm-style, with no creature comforts.
How do Temple University Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry alum and dental students provide oral health care in Haiti?
The goal for each Haiti trip to is to provide the highest quality of dental care to as many Haitian people, as conditions will allow. Every day, from sun up to sundown, the group splits up into two groups of faculty and students, embarking on a stomach-churning drive into the mountains, where paved roads are non-existent and dirt paths are often washed-out by torrential spring rains.
While in these remote villages treating the dental needs of children and families, students perform all procedures under the guidance and supervision of faculty members.
The patients are seen in makeshift “clinics”; there is no electricity, and autoclaved sterilized instruments brought from the U.S. are then cold sterilized for re-use. Hundreds of patients are seen each day in portable dental chairs under the shade of palm trees or small thatched roof huts. Often complex extractions and other surgical procedures are performed in the field. The team brings an extensive supply of antibiotics and pain medications for distribution to patients after treatment.