UMES alum travels to Mexico for dental school mission

  • Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Editor's note: This is another in an occasional series of first-person essays by recent UMES graduates and where life has taken them since commencement.

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - (Nov. 12, 2014) -Two years after graduating from UMES, I still carry my 'Hawk Pride' everywhere I go.

    Jaimie Whyte ~ UMES 2012I am currently in my third year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.  This past summer, I was blessed to be chosen to travel to Mexico for a month to learn about dentistry there and provide dental care for children at a local orphanage.

    Five other dental students and I traveled first to Mexico City where we visited museums and toured the Teotihuacan pyramids built by the Aztecs. We climbed the Sun Pyramid, which we were told has 365 steps (one step for each day of the year). The view at the top was amazing.

    Our Mexico City stop also took us to Universidad Tecnológica de México, a local dental school. Our hosts were welcoming and more than willing to share with us their approach to dental instruction. We were impressed with their program and the facilities.

    We also visited a local cancer hospital where oral and maxillofacial surgery and prosthetics are made. We even made a stop at a bone graft factory.

    Next, we traveled to Puebla, a city of 1.5 million people in southern Mexico, where we visited Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla. Their technology and level of patient care was similar to that seen in the United States. We also visited more pyramids and embraced more of the Mexican culture.

    The focus of our trip, however, was a two-week stay at the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Miacatlán, a small town about two hours from Mexico City. The UNC dental school has been providing free dental care to this orphanage for over 20 years, and I was fortunate to go.

    Jaimie Whyte provides dental care in MexicoWe treated 400 patients, which included diagnosing each child, giving oral hygiene instructions, performing cleanings, applying topical fluoride and placing fillings where needed.

    The kids were so happy to see us and grateful for our service. We dined with them in "el comedor," Spanish for "the dining room." They lovingly called us "mi dentista."

    At night, we hung out with the kids and played soccer with them. Even at the orphanage, we never stopped learning about the country's culture and how that impacts their dental care.

    This experience was life changing and rewarding. It made me grateful for all the experience and technology available here in the U.S. Professors advise us all the time: "You aren't just treating teeth, you're treating a whole person," and this trip really solidified that for me.

    Providing care for the children was a warm, humbling feeling. It was