In April of 2012, the Semiahmoo Dental Outreach team travelled to central Vietnam for the second time. The previous trip in 2009 was a great success and we were so impressed with our local support team we felt a return trip would easily be as productive. Our team on this trip included six dentists and three dental hygienists. Dr Ken Stones and Dr Les Ennis, both ICD Fellows, along with Dr Lange Soo, Dr Janice Boyd, Dr Joan Eaton and Dr Kevin Gee, all dentists in the Vancouver area. The dental hygienists on our team were Debbie McDonald, Christine Penn and Candace Leveille.

Locally, we worked with the NGO, East Meets West (EMW). EMW (based out of Oakland California), is a non-profit philanthropic organization that has it’s roots in Central Vietnam but now operates throughout south east Asia. It was started by LeLy Hayslip, a Vietnamese woman whose life’s dream was to help heal the wounds of the war between Vietnam and the United States. In 1988, her life story and the genesis of East Meets West, was portrayed in Oliver Stone’s film, Heaven and Earth.

Our support team from East Meets West was from their permanent dental clinic based in Da Nang, a city on the east coast of central Vietnam. They coordinate outreach programs throughout the rural areas west of Da Nang. They supplied us with all the equipment (compressors, generators, handpieces, sterilization equipment , etc) as well as manpower (translators, assistants, support staff). For our part, we donated sundries and supplies that we would need including amalgam, composite, fluoride varnish, and the like.

In these rural areas of Vietnam, there is no realistic access to any form of dental care. Our clinic was set up in a village school, ( Duy Vinh QNam school), a remote village an hours drive from our hotel in Hoi An. Our Vancouver based group worked on the ground with East Meets West. We had 7 portable dental chairs and two extraction tables working full time for 5 days all powered by 4 portable generators and 3 portable compressors. There were also many portable fans blowing hot steamy air around in a vain attempt to cool off the Canadians. For the majority of these children, we were the first dentists they would see and most likely the last. Our primary focus was to try to save as much of the adult dentition as possible. The quality of dentistry provided was as one would receive in any dental office in Canada. However, due to time constraints and the sheer numbers of children requiring care, we had to restrict ourselves to restorative dentistry (amalgam and composites) as well as extractions. This basic dentistry was combined with preventative services such as sealants, and every child seen received topical fluoride varnish. Over the 5 day period our team treated 409 children with total patient visits of 611. We performed 1186 preventative services, 545 fillings and 279 extractions with a dollar equivalent to $130,950 US.

As always with these humanitarian trips, all our travel expenses, including flights, hotels and meals were borne by team members personally and any funds we raised from outside went to supplies and direct support of our Vietnamese hosts. All monies we raised, including ICD funding, were put directly into dental supplies and support to our local hosts.