For two weeks last April 2016, the Magellan Learning Center was transformed into an actual dental office. Thanks to the intervention of two teams of dental specialists, more than 1,468 acts of dental care were conducted not only for the children of Virlanie, but also for the staff and volunteers, both local or foreign.
Dr. Jean-François Michel, Head Organizer of the dental mission and President of an association called APLIC, joins us in this interview:
What are your objectives for this dental mission?
The main objective is to bring our expertise and knowledge to those who need it most, because they have had no opportunity or access to this kind of service.
Our dental services include:
1. Responding to emergency (pain, infection).
2. Salvaging teeth that can still be treated.
3. Replace missing teeth.
4. Prevent recurrence, somehow “dry up the source.”
Who are the members involved in your mission?
During this tenth (10th) dental mission in Virlanie, we brought in two teams made up of sixteen (16) French dentists, three (3) Filipino dentists, two (2) non-odontologists volunteers, one (1) nurse, one (1) dental assistant, one (1) engineer, two (2) employees of the Nurses Foundation who provided us assistance in logistics and monitoring of patients. All of these people are volunteers.
We divided these people into two teams, with one team onground for a week, and the other team taking their place soon after.
The first week was carried out with the support of APLIC (Association of Periodontology and Implantology Clinic) which aims to organize postgraduate teaching and training in the field of periodontics and dentistry and perform dental humanitarian missions.
The second week was carried out by ADV Association (Dental Help Vietnam), whose goal is to bring to Vietnam logistics, educational and human resources primarily to provide dental care to the poor.
Richard IM, Treasurer of the Association ADV says, “We worked alongside Doctor Michel for the first time in 2005 when we provided services to Virlanie beneficiaries. After this mission and given the magnitude of the work ahead, we left the Philippines feeling a little hopeless. We haven’t been back, since our actions focused mostly in Vietnam. Our mission in that country is gradually decreasing because we feel the need to be less present. Today, we act only at the request of associations.
But 10 years later, we’re back here in the Philippines, and it was a way for ADV to revive our mission in the country and maybe direct our actions here in the future. We wish to establish ambulatory missions, this is what we do best. “
Doctor Michel, when did this dental mission start, and how often does it happen?
This is going to be our 10th dental mission done for the benefit of Virlanie children. The first took place back in April 2005. There are many dental practitioners who unite to bring their support to Virlanie, and they desire to act annually, depending on the availability of each, to ensure quality monitoring. The majority of these volunteers have humanitarian experience and can support and guide new practitioners without experience. These missions usually last one to two weeks and can process between 350 to 600 children.
How and why did you choose Virlanie to be your long-term partner for this?
I am married to a Filipina, so it’s natural that the Philippines is the country we want to help by bringing our professional expertise. My wife Marie (a dentist herself and Treasurer of APLIC) and I initiated this project 10 years ago, along with teams that made it all possible.
We chose Virlanie because its founder is a Frenchman, and since our staff on site is not usually fluent in English, it helps facilitate our discussions. In addition to this, we wanted to make sure our work would have a lasting effect in the long term, and that the equipment we’ll bring in would be safe in our absence.
What looks like a “typical” day during your mission?
Each day begins with volunteers welcoming the patients of the day with hygiene education through games and fun questions. Then, each child is examined and lead to the nursing station to meet his needs (care, surgery, prosthesis). At the end of his service, additional instructions, a toothbrush, and toothpaste samples are given to the child or the nurse in charge of monitoring.
For children requiring prosthesis, a local supplier manufacture it for us to complete our work. A computer record is made for each patient. This allows for patient follow-up and identification, and it also gives the doctor of the Foundation and the guardians of the children more information as needed.
Here are some specific information on the 1,468 acts of care on the dental missions conducted in 2016:
– 638 “conservative care”
– 395 surgeries
– 283 new patients
Among these acts in 1468, 91 of them have not gone beyond the stage of consultation.
Do you receive donations for your dental mission (toothpaste, toothbrush etc)?
Yes, most dental laboratories and companies respond favorably to our requests. We provide toothbrushes, toothpastes, and mouthwash. We also receive filling materials (composites) of high quality, which allows the children to receive the benefits of the the latest technology in health care.
What are your final thoughts and feelings on this 10th dental mission?
We experience the same joy that we usually do working with the Foundation, its social workers and volunteers, who are so dedicated. We are so pleased because we feel so welcomed. In the past years, we have seen children become successful adults who are integrated into city life.
We are thankful because we know of the progress that Virlanie has grown into, giving disadvantaged people a hope for a better life.
Finally, we are also very satisfied because we have the opportunity to bring with us young dentists, who have the opportunity to discover a life that they were previously unaware of, and can be challenged to do more for the people around them.
Virlanie Foundation, together with all the children under its care, sends a big THANK YOU to APLIC Associations and ADV and all the mobilized professionals who have made the project possible.