Retired dentist still treks in Nepal to volunteer
June 25, 2014
Nepal outreach: Local residents in Ilam, Nepal, greet Dr. Dave McMorine and the medical/dental volunteer team in 2012. Volunteers provided medical and dental exams and treatments in the local school pictured behind the group.
Dr. David McMorine, a retired dentist in Portland and a seasoned traveler, has explored more than 50 countries and provided volunteer dental care in a half dozen remote areas worldwide.
In 1994, he responded to a call for volunteers in Nepal that he saw in the ADA News.
"I am not a mountain man, but when I saw the pitch I thought, 'I should go,'" Dr. McMorine said. "There were seven doctors walking for four days going over mountain passes of 13,000- and 14,000-foot elevations. The experience was amazing. In six days we treated almost 900 people on that trek."
Since then he has made many trips to Nepal. He has raised thousands of dollars to support his trips with generous donations of equipment and supplies—from friends, foundations and dental supply companies. Donors have provided sealant materials and supplies, dental chairs, a generator and a compressor for a hospital dental clinic. He has received generous support from organizations like Newberg, Oregon-based A-dec and Rotary International.
Amid the world's highest mountain peaks, the people of Nepal today have a per capita income equivalent to about $600 U.S. dollars a year. When Dr. McMorine started volunteering there, it was more like $180. The need, he said, is great.
"If it doesn't rain, people can starve to death because they can't grow food."
Dr. McMorine works with Himalayan HealthCare, a charitable organization with a mission "to create sustainable development programs in the remote areas of Nepal that will improve the quality of life for its people."
He has helped train local dental care providers to place sealants in children to prevent caries.
"Volunteers need to take plenty of toothbrushes, sealant materials and supplies on the mission treks," Dr. McMorine said. "Then they can teach the local dental health care providers apply them."
At age 73, Dr. McMorine has been retired from practice for 16 years, but looks forward to every volunteer trip he makes. "I love traveling," he said. "The cultural differences are amazing. That really sucked me in. But just traveling isn't good enough. I am happy to be able to make a difference. I can hardly wait to go again."
Dr. McMorine wants to share the benefit of his experiences and sealant technique to help other international volunteers.
For example, drying teeth before applying sealants can be a challenge in remote areas like Nepal. "Drying teeth was a pain. I was using a small bulb syringe and it was slow going," he said. "So on a trip in 2012, I took several air mattress foot pumps to dry teeth. That worked so much better than small bulb syringes."
He brings a voltage regulator because of the irregular electrical supply in the field and a surge protector to recharge the LED light curing units, headlamps and flashlights.
His sealant placement technique was featured in the January issue of the Oregon Dental Association's Membership Matters magazine available online at oregondental.org
"The method is also easy to teach to local providers," he added. "Be sure to bring some high quality extracted teeth to teach the local dental health care providers how to place sealants."
See more about Himalayan HealthCare and upcoming medical-dental treks at himalayan-healthcare.org
To learn more about volunteering internationally and to find a volunteer opportunity right for you, visit the ADA International Volunteer web page