Supplying Patient Care Globally

August 02, 2015

Three weeks ago, Jacob and I were contacted by Ann Lalezarian, a New York based hygienist, with a simple request to help her acquire supplies for her upcoming mission trip to Ecuador. Ann volunteers with Barbara Greene and Anita Roth for Blanca’s House, a medical and dental mission group that frequents Latin American regions deprived of dental care.  

I was immediately captured by Ann’s excitement, and by her dedication to get all the supplies needed to most effectively treat her future patients. Before even speaking with Ann, my mind was set on aiding her mission.

It was a good thought on Ann’s part – a young startup dedicated to improving the supply marketplace and lowering the cost of dental supplies was likely to be interested in helping. Supply Clinic strives to make affordable supplies available to dental offices, and we were eager to help patients in need however we could.

Ann provided us with a list of needs for her mission. Items requested ranged from bite blocks to amalgam to pediatric extraction forceps. Ann and I had the chance to discuss the specific needs of her mission, and together we determined what would best suit the needs of those being treated.  

When planning, it was important to keep in mind that the patient population that was being treated would likely not receive treatment again for years. Durability of restorative materials and possible need for retreatment were considered; for instance, we opted for amalgam in addition to composite resins. That same day we placed Ann’s order, including spoon excavators, Hollenback carvers, cement spatulas, extraction forceps, and dycal.

My strongly positive gut reaction to Ann’s request was likely in part due to some of my own experience on mission trips. Back when I was in dental school, I had the opportunity to partake in two similar mission trips. My interest in such trips was initially instilled by one of my professors at Penn Dental, Dr. Skip Collins, who spent his career working in the Commissioned Corps and Indian Health Services helping provide dental care for those in need.

My first mission trip took me to Guatemala with my classmate Jeff Pace; we treated orphans and villagers in the remote villages off of the Rio Dulce River. The dental clinic was actually a single dental unit on a one-room catamaran. Each day we would visit villages up and down the river, and treat those with emergent dental needs. 

The second of such trips was in Vietnam (pictured below); my classmates Kat Ma, Wendy Lai, and I had the opportunity to treat children in a special needs clinic in the city of Da Nang, and children at a remote elementary school in the Hiep Duc province.

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It’s interesting to note that children in those remote regions seemed to be generally stoic patients, completely unfazed by the sight of a needle or sound of a dental drill. I’m not quite sure why they acted so differently from their first world counterparts. Perhaps it’s because they have not been socially conditioned to associate fear with the dentist. Or perhaps it’s because they are super grateful for the treatment they are receiving, and understand that brief discomfort will ultimately leave them in a healthier state.

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In addition to giving to missions abroad, Supply Clinic is currently interested in partnering up with community clinics based here in Chicago and giving back to the city that has given so much to us. We are considering a number of organizations to reach out to, but are also interested in hearing suggestions from you. If any of you have thoughts as to possible community clinics in the Chicagoland area, please let us know!

Ann – we at Supply Clinic wish you the best of luck on your mission trip!


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