Q&A: Volunteering around the world

Dr. Erica Coe treats a child during an international volunteer trip in India.

Dr. Erica Coe treats a child during an international volunteer trip in India.

Dr. Erica Coe, a 2013 graduate of Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry, is currently completing a pediatric residency in Hawaii. Dr. Coe has volunteered internationally in India twice in 2012 and 2013, and most recently visited Nepal in February during an academic exchange program. Dr. Coe spoke with the ADA New Dentist Now about her experiences.

Attend the free webinar, International Volunteer Dental Projects, What’s It All About Anyway? on Tuesday, May 16 at 5 p.m. Central time.

Dr. Coe in during an academic exchange program in Nepal.

Dr. Coe (right) during an academic exchange program in Nepal.

Why did you decide to volunteer internationally?

First and foremost, I love to travel. I’m curious. I love volunteering because it gives me a more meaningful interaction with the country I’m visiting. I get to talk and interact with people and learn more about their culture and their lives.

What did a typical day look on your volunteer trip?

In Nepal, we did an academic exchange. We gave lectures to the dental schools in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we did more intimate discussions about teaching and collaborating. In my trip to India, we worked in a school where the kids boarded. We did everything from cleanings, extractions to basic checkup, crowns. Going on this trip and working on children influenced my decision to pursue pediatrics. It was very influential in my life for sure.

What challenges did you encounter on this trip and how did you address these challenges?

I think the amount of need was the greatest challenge. You’re there for a very limited amount of time but there’s a feeling that you want to see everyone. Also the equipment was a challenge, sometimes we had sections, sometimes we didn’t. And sometimes we didn’t have electricity.

Favorite part about the trips:

I think it’s probably getting to know the kids and the community better. They really welcomed us into their homes. We had some amazing meals. And you get this feeling that you’re doing something that they really needed.

Why should new dentists consider volunteering internationally?

I think that these trips opens your eyes to dental care and dental conditions outside of our bubble here in the U.S. I think sometimes you can get caught up in your loan payments, house payments and buying an office. It’s nice to take a step back and be reminded why you became a dentist in the first place. You want to reach out and connect to people in a meaningful way. Going on these trips, I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. You’d be surprised to learn that you know more than you think and have more to contribute than you think.

When and where is your next trip?

We’re going to be bringing a group back for another academic exchange to Nepal in fall 2018.

Learn more

New dentists curious to learn more about the nuts and bolts of volunteering around the world, register for the webinar, International Volunteer Dental Projects, What’s It All About Anyway? The webinar will be held on Tuesday, May 16, 5 p.m. Central time.

Topics will include the nature of volunteer activities, cross-cultural issues, comparison of service and teaching projects, how to get started either at home or abroad, the nuts and bolts of volunteering overseas and at home, and where to find these volunteer opportunities. There will be ample time for interaction with the presenters and other experienced members of the audience.

For more information or to register, click here.

7 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *