McGill Dentistry has taken a tremendous step forward in establishing a long-lasting school partnership and annual student trip to Jamaica with Great Shape! Inc.
Since Hurricane Gilbert decimated the little island nation of Jamaica in 1988, Great Shape! has been providing access to education and health care to local families in need. Great Shape! maintains an impressive portfolio of projects including 1000 Smiles, the world’s largest international humanitarian dental project. More than 350 volunteers participate with 1000 Smiles each year to provide much-needed free dental care out of temporary clinics in rural communities.
McGill dental students can now participate in a one-week annual trip with 1000 Smiles, as part of DENT 429 International Outreach Internship, an elective credit course and somewhat unique experience among Canadian undergraduate dental programs. Throughout the school year, a new Dental Students’ Society initiative, the 1000 Smiles Club, will promote an appreciation for Jamaican history and culture to emphasize the concept of sustainable and responsible volunteering abroad.
Dr. Omid Kiarash, Division Director of Periodontics and Dr. Sara Behmanesh, Faculty Lecturer and Clinical Instructor in Periodontics, have enthusiastically stepped-up as Co-Directors of McGill’s Great Shape! school partnership and are prepared to provide invaluable clinical expertise and continuity from year-to-year. The upcoming trip will include a sizable contingent of 12 fourth-year and third-year McGill dental students. David Wu, Matthew Oueis and Julie Cai (Class of 2019) are spearheading the trip organization and fundraising.
McGill’s upcoming 1000 Smiles project will run September 22 to 29, 2018, serving local Jamaicans from a diverse region ranging from the bustling fishing village of Whitehouse, to the agricultural community of Brompton in the “Bread Basket” of Jamaica. Clinic sites will be in community centres and churches. Joining McGill on this project will be approximately 10 dental hygiene students and their supervisors from Oregon Institute of Technology, as well as several private practitioners from across the US. Project participants will be accommodated in style at Sandals South Coast, set on a 2-mile stretch of pristine white-sand beach and nestled within a 500-acre nature preserve.
All-in-all, the future is looking bright and there is much to smile about. Thanks are due to Dr. Shahrokh Esfandiari whose strong support of this student initiative has been instrumental in creating this exciting learning opportunity.
Learn more about this year's trip and the team of students going: https://www.mcgill.ca/seedsofchange/project/mcgill-dental-mission-jamaica