Dental Hygiene Students Treat 400 Children in Dominican Republic

Published 08.07.2018

Nursing & Health Sciences
Dental Hygiene
Student News
Faculty & Staff

Seventeen Pennsylvania College of Technology students recently returned from the Dominican Republic, where they provided dental care to children at six schools in the Las Terrenas area.

The students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in dental hygiene. Most were enrolled in Oral Health Care Field Experience, an elective course that allows them to increase their cultural competency by planning, providing and evaluating primary oral health services for an underserved population.

From left, Penn College dental hygiene students Megan M. Mecouch, of Peach Bottom, Lancaster County; Kayla C. Summerson, of Emporium, Cameron County, and Lori M. Weaver, of Newmanstown, Lebanon County, join classmates in cleaning children’s teeth at a school in the Dominican Republic.Jenna N. Tippy, of Langhorne, shares a moment in the sun with a young patient.“This was my second year going on this trip. Last year was truly amazing; it is such an eye-opener,” said Karlee E. Moyer, a student from Hollsopple. “Words really can’t describe the impact the Dominican people have on me. All of them have such a special place in my heart.”

The group – which also included two faculty members – provided preventive dental hygiene services and education to approximately 400 children during their weeklong outreach efforts.

In addition to cleaning the children’s teeth, the group placed sealants and provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and home care instructions.

“This year, I was asked by my amazing instructor, Mrs. (Rhonda J.) Seebold, to come up with a way to keep track of the number of sealants we did,” Moyer said. “So I came up with a system using Popsicle sticks. By the end of the week, we calculated over 600 sealants. That number is amazing.”

Seebold, a part-time member of the dental hygiene faculty, has been leading international learning experiences for dental hygiene students since 2008. Students have traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

During their time in the field, students learn to adapt to situations that are very different from the typical dental office.

“With this trip, you have to be very flexible, because they really have so little,” Moyer said. “We set up on desks and chairs to clean the children’s teeth in such small areas. I think being able to adapt to these difficult situations and just being around these children and their culture will help my career in the future.”

Student Grace C. Heaton, of Jefferson, Md., helps a child to practice flossing on a model mouth.In the present, she relishes the time spent with the children, their families and their schoolteachers.

“I loved coming back to the Dominican and being able to see the children grow,” Moyer said. “The connection that we make with these children is amazing. They really love having us there, and they get a chance to feel special for a little while. We always get a chance to play with all of the kids either before or after we do all the cleanings and sealants. I really love this part and getting to interact with them.

“This trip is the best experience I have ever had, and all the memories will stick with me for a lifetime. I cannot wait to go back!”

While Melinda L. Diggan, of Milton, examines a child’s mouth, Megan P. Fitzsimmons, of Portville, N.Y., offers moral support and a hand to hold.Also key to the success of the study abroad experience is Shanin L. Dougherty, coordinator of international programs for Penn College.

“The dental hygiene study abroad program continues to be an amazing, life-changing experience for everyone involved,” said Shawn A. Kiser, director of dental hygiene. “Both Rhonda Seebold and Shanin Dougherty do a tremendous amount of work to make this study abroad opportunity possible.”

To learn more about the dental hygiene program at Penn College, call 570-327-4519.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Photos provided by the dental hygiene program