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Hispanic Dental Association (HDA)



During my Summer rotation, I had the opportunity to work at the NPH in Honduras, one of the orphanage programs in Central America. The NPH is a charitable organization that serves orphaned and abandoned children providing shelter, food, clothing, health care, and education.

The people of NPH all shared love, acceptance and responsibilities for the children since the time they arrived at the ranch.

NPH is not only an orphanage, it also has other satellites homes such as Casa Pasionista, which is a hospice for adults in the final stages of AIDS. There, parents can stay around their children knowing that when they are gone the kids will be loved and safe at the ranch.

Casa Eva is a home for the elderly. The elders there are called the grandparents for all the children.

Casa Angeles is dedicated to physically and developmentally disabled children and is located in Tegucigalpa, not at the ranch.

Finally, a new project, Nueva Esperanza, which is a development project for the victims of Hurricane Mitch.

Ciudad blanca is also another house exponsored by NPH. They have homeless adults that are usually old or with disabilities.

At the Santa Fe Ranch they have volunteers from different countries and local employees with all specialties; speech, occupational and physical therapists, teachers, physicians, a dentist, and so forth. The kids go to school at regular classes and also attend the talleres and the farm.

The talleres are workshops that include shoemaking, sewing, welding, carpentry, etc. There, they learn how to be productive, and as they get older will start taking responsibilities for themselves. A solid academic and spiritual education prepares the pequeños to be productive, caring, responsible, honest, and the other qualities that will make them respectable and ready to continue their role in society.

In order to stay at the NPH the children must be poor and their mother must either be deceased or have abandoned them. The child's father and other family members must be unable to care for them. All brothers and sisters younger than 16 of age and by the same mother join the NPH together.

Upon their arrival at the Ranch, the NPH physician and dentist examine the children. They are treated for any illness and/or parasites. After that, the children are placed into their group homes with their peers according to their age and development.

After completing secondary school the children give back one year of service to the NPH family, called Año Familiar. The type of service depends on the individual interests and on the needs of NPH. This is a very important part of the philosophy of the NPH, this is also one of the best years for the pequeños because during this time they feel that they can help other children the same way they were helped not too long ago . If the children have the aptitude and desire to continue with their studies, NPH sends them to High School and specialized training courses in Tegucigalpa or other locations.

To attend the University under NPH, they need to give back 2 more years of service to NPH and need to keep good academic performance. They receive an allowance to cover their expenses when they are outside the ranch. The children get paid during the Año familiar, which is a way to teach children about work and responsibilities.

My four week experience at the ranch was unforgettable. I was able to practice dentistry and interact with the children and adults in their own homeland. I visited the hogares during the afternoons, to have dinner with the children and help them with homework, chores, and various activities.

My first day at the ranch was great, we had a meeting with all the volunteers from the different countries. They all were enthusiastic and were ready to work. They were of all ages, and depending on their experience and profession, they were placed with the different groups.

Except for Mondays, we had patients scheduled during clinic hours. The dental clinic was open to the surrounding community. We had people that traveled up to 4 hours to be there. Only on Mondays did we charge for our service. But the amount was a symbolic payment for the service that was provided.

The main activities of the day were extractions. The X-ray machine was very old, only used for emergencies and endodontics. Usually the extractions were performed without a radiograph. Tuesdays and Thursdays we had regular patients. Wednesday's were dedicated to the kids in Casa Suyapa, which are the little ones. The appointments were scheduled longer on that day since they were the youngest patients at the ranch, and they were in need of special attention. On Fridays we had fewer patients scheduled because the patients from Ciudad blanca arrived during the morning.

During my first week I also had the opportunity to visit the dental supply store. My preceptor, Dr. Rodriguez, and I went to Tegucigalpa to pick up the supplies for the dental office. It was a good experience since I was able to see downtown Tegucigalpa.

On my second visit to Tegucigalpa, Dr. Rodriguez took me to the Dental School. I observed the labs, clinics, and the bookstore. After visiting the dental school I appreciated more all of the opportunities and resources we have at UNC. I feel very fortunate. I sometimes don't realize all the hard work our patient care coordinator does, the variety of instruments and materials that we are able to use. This also includes the labs, clinics, faculty, and the use of the computers.

The dental experience at the ranch's dental clinic was great. I was able to perform lots of extractions and operative procedures. The dental office was very limited in instruments, materials, and sterilization procedures. We worked providing a good service at with our limited resources. The operative procedures took a little longer than usual since the dental units didn't have any suction. We had to stop frequently so the patients could expectorate. The high speed didn't have water so we would have to irrigate and rinse. Sometimes the isolation was very tricky, so it was a great challenge and a good learning experience.

We didn't have an assistant either. Dr. Rodriguez is very used to working by herself, and she is very good. I was very impressed by all her efficiency and quality of work. The procedures I performed included amalgams, composites, sealants, CCRR, caries inactivation, pulpotomies, SC/RP, prophylaxis, fluoride varnish, and OHI.

The patient pool included a great variety of ages. Starting from 3 years old to 78 years old. Not only did I have patients from of all ages but also with developmental disabilities and systemic diseases.

During the afternoons I was not at the dental clinic I was able to work with the medical team, as a translator. I was able to work with a group of physicians and medical students from the University of Virginia. They stayed at the ranch for 2 weeks and performed general examinations and evaluations of growth and development of the kids. I also helped with simultaneous translation of some of the pequeños and the new group of volunteers; during their 2 week introduction to the program. The rest of the afternoons and evenings I had a great time with the kids. We played, did homework, shared responsibilities, and we became friends with some of them.

The children are very lovable, they were looking for love and were displaying love everywhere, and in every activity they performed. They were all a big family. Over there nobody is a visitor, stranger, or the new kid on the block. We were just a new addition to the family of the NPH. The pequeños were always happy, never complaining over anything. Despite their situation and problems. Some of their stories and experiences were heart-breaking. Some were about things you can hardly imagine happen. But they were still so happy at the ranch. They felt secure and loved. It was quite an experience, and the kids taught me a lot. I learned so much from them. Every day was a new great day, a new day to be thankful for.

During my last week we had a dental student from Holland, she was in her 3rd year. She worked a lot with us, usually assisting, since she didn't have much clinical experience. She was able to place sealants and work on some operative procedures. She also helped with sterilization and keeping up with the instruments, those days we were able to see more patients.

I describe my experience at the ranch as unique and rewarding. I learned not only about dental procedures, but I grew a lot as a person. My preceptor Dr. Rodriguez was a great teacher and now a good friend. She was always encouraging and very supportive. I had my own patients to schedule and I was able to complete their treatments too. I will definitely go back to the ranch as soon as I have another opportunity. I encourage anyone who would want to go that they will have an experience of a lifetime.


DDS 2003