During the first week in April, I, along with 3 second year dental hygiene students (Hannah Hayes, Jade Piette, and Hailey Sayles), 15 nursing students, and 2 nursing faculty members from VTC participated in a service learning trip in Cusco, Peru.  The trip was arranged by a nursing faculty member through an organization known as MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere). This organization works with U.S. colleges to encourage students to participate in service-learning activities in developing and third-world countries (Ecuador, Peru, and Tanzania), to broaden their knowledge of different populations and cultures, and gain an understanding of economic disparities in indigenous populations.  Students did fundraising through MEDLIFE to cover their trip expenses.

The trip began with a tour of Cusco, and a Reality Tour of the Sacred Valley.  Three medical/dental service days were spent traveling by bus to mountain villages outside of the city of Cusco: Occopata, Quenqo, and Casacancha.  On these days, all participants had the opportunity to rotate through various stations: handwashing, medical triage, dental assisting, toothbrushing, fluoride placement, medical assisting, and pharmacy.  Approximately 200 people were served on the mobile clinic rotation days, including 90 dental patients, both adult and pediatric.  Two local area dentists provided dental restorative and extraction procedures.  The mobile dental equipment included a portable chair, light, and compressor for dental equipment.  Only one portable suction unit (saliva ejector) was available.  Currently, MEDLIFE does not have funding for additional dental equipment, and instruments for the provision of dental hygiene care.  I assisted and observed one of the dentists using a white stone and handpiece for removal of supragingival calculus.

The VTC students and faculty participating in this trip had a rewarding experience the entire week.  Prior to leaving Cusco, everyone traveled by bus and train for an incredible tour of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. The VTC MEDLIFE group is planning to return to Cusco for a second service learning trip in April 2019.

Tina Marshall, RDH, M.Ed.
Professor,VTC Dental Hygiene