In May, Dr. Andrew Greenberg traveled to Jamaica’s Montego Bay with a cadre of Westchester-based medical professionals exclusively for the purpose of administering dental care to a population that doesn’t have practical access to it.
The weeklong humanitarian mission, Greenberg’s fourth, has been known to render much-needed medicine and relief to nearly a thousand people. Yet, for all the people helped by the annual mission, Greenberg insists there is no one who benefits more than he.
What follows is Dr. Greenberg’s travelogue, which he generously created exclusively for WM.
Plane lands at the airport in Montego Bay from JFK airport in New York. Always remarkable to see the difference between the U.S. and other parts of the world. I am met by a female representative from the Jamaican government, who whisks me through the Customs process. A car is there to meet me and transport me to the Tryall Club, which will be our home base for the next 7 days. Nanci Kraus, a Chappaqua resident and organizer of the mission, provides her beautiful home to all of the dentists and auxiliary staff.
Our group consists of: Dr. Olivia Masry (a General Dentist in Briarcliff, NY, who is the clinical director and one of the founders of this mission); Dr. Andrew Greenberg (Oral surgeon Briarcliff, NY); Dr. Gene Goetz (General Dentist Mt. Kisco, NY); Dr. Hinna Chaudhry (General Dentist Mt. Kisco, NY); 10 hygienists from a Minnesota Hygiene school; 2 graduating Jamaican dental students, and Dr. Frank Williams, who runs the Oral Surgery department at the Jamaican dental school.
We are all looking forward to helping these people, who badly need dental care.
We all meet for a delicious breakfast at the outdoor patio overlooking the water, prior to getting started in setting up the clinic for the week’s work. We are transported by bus to the church annex building; the Hopewell Christian Deliverance center donates their facility for our yearly mission.
This gives us a day to have everything running smoothly before seeing our first patients at 9:00 a.m. Monday.
There are already men, women and children anxiously awaiting our yearly arrival. This is the only opportunity these people will have to receive dental care. For us, the experience of helping those in need is both uplifting and heartrending. I recall that on a previous mission, there was a young man who had a cleft palate so severe, he couldn’t drink water or eat food without it going through his nose.
I arranged for him to come to the U.S. and have a prosthetic palate constructed, which has allowed him to lead a relatively normal life after suffering so long. A remarkable case this morning was collaborating with Dr. Goetz to provide a woman with a front tooth.
School bus waiting for us, packed with kids, and local townspeople awaiting treatment. We work with the local Kiwanis and rotary clubs to maximize the number of people seen. So many children who have never had their teeth examined or cleaned are remarkably unafraid and grateful for treatment — quite a contrast to many of the kids we see at home.
Their gleaming eyes and beautiful smiles radiate in our makeshift clinic. When they see us, they cheer and clap their hands.
Each day begins at 9:00, and we work ’til 6:00, in blistering heat and humidity with minimal relief from fans and an air conditioner that continually breaks down. I encountered a woman who sold mangos on the main street. She had a decayed and unrestorable tooth. I told her to come into the clinic the next day.
We return to our home base each day to shower and enjoy an amazing dinner of Jamaican cuisine.
The mango lady arrived bearing a bag of mangos in gratitude for her upcoming treatment. Her tooth was extracted, and she was happy to be out of pain. More children of all ages arrive by bus, and we see everyone.
This is our last day. We have seen 891 patients over the course of the week; I have personally done 81 extractions. Jayden is my last patient; he is 12 years old and presented with facial swelling and pain. I performed an extraction and drainage of his infection and gave him antibiotics. It is extremely rewarding to help these people; the Jamaicans we meet each year are so lovely and grateful.
After a half day we break down the clinic, pack up all of our supplies and get ready for our trip home Saturday morning.
This was my fourth mission; each one has run more smoothly than the last, as we have grown to understand the scope of what is required to be successful. Our next humanitarian dental mission to Jamaica will occur on April 23, 2020 to May 2, 2020.