Name: Eda Wu
Type of Project: Service Learning
The STEP Signature Project that was proposed included a service trip that involved travelling to the Dominican Republic to help set up a clinic and assist local dentists to give free dental care to the locals. The service trip also included going to a small village and teaching young elementary school aged children about overall health and dental health. The STEP project completed was from the service learning category of the 6 possible STEP project categories.
My view of the world had changed while completing the STEP signature project. I have learned more about other cultures and different ideas. Travelling to another country-especially one that is drastically different in many ways (economically, culturally, and socially)-has allowed me to broaden my perspective of the world. Through immersing myself for two weeks in the Dominican Republic, I was able to interact with the patients, visit the capital, and try the local cuisine. Little things that I took for granted in the United States also became more apparent and helped me better understand and gain a first-hand account on the different situations that other countries are facing.
Through interacting with the patients and working at the clinic, I was able to better understand the health and medical situation in the country. Many people in the region where our clinic was set did not have the opportunity to seek dental care until the service trip. I also learned that in many of the medical clinics in the area, gloves were not used when helping patients insert needles. (In our clinic we used gloves, but in the medical clinics, gloves were not used by the nurses.) They gave an insight on the level of medical understanding and health precautions used.
Everyday privileges that I took for granted in the United States such as an advanced septic system became very apparent. The water used for drinking and brushing teeth in the Dominican Republic came from bottles. We were not recommended to use the tap water for drinking or brushing our teeth. I originally thought that the reason behind this recommendation was that maybe foreigners’ immune systems were not used to the material/organisms that may be in the water. I later found out that even the locals were not able to drink the water. Everyone needed to get water from bottles for drinking. The plumbing system was also less advanced than the U.S. Toilet paper was not allowed to be thrown in the toilet or the toilets will clog.
Through touring the country and visiting the capital, Santo Domingo, I was able to learn about the history of the country and some of the origins of the ideas and cultures of the country. We toured many museums and visited many grocery stores. We did not tour many restaurants because of the fear of Typhoid Fever. (Many of the foods that we ate were prepared by the program.) Although many of the foods that we ate were prepared by the program many where based on regular Dominican meals. We were able to try traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Dominicans ate a lot of eggs and sometimes ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Lunch mostly consisted of rice, beans, and chicken. Dinner was mostly rice and beans, pasta, and salad. At the history museum, we learned about the Spanish colonization of the Dominican Republic, the different imports produced by the country, and the medical and cultural history. I also learned that machismo is favored in the country. The men had more power and respect.
Through the STEP project, I was able to explore a different culture and society. I learned about the health status of the country, the level of medical prevention education, the history of the country, the culture of the country, and the social differences compared to the US.
The gain of the understanding of different cultures and backgrounds is important to my life because it allows me to realize the world outside of mine. It opens up new perspectives and shows me how I could impact other societies through volunteer. This change is also important in my personal goals because it shows me that I may meet people of different backgrounds in my future as a dentist. It also shows me preventative medicine that I need to make aware of for others. The project also gives me dental experience through my assisting of the dentists. This will be very valuable to me when taking classes in Dental School. Because of this experience, I hope to be able to further help others in different societies. I would like to help under-served populations through medicine.