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Symposium inspires dental volunteers

Dr. Hewett: One of the volunteer program speakers.
Interactive: A multicultural game is played by participants in the ADA Volunteer Symposium. From left are Dr. Marshall Gallant, Dr. Ihor Suszko, hygienist Patty Walsh, Dr. James Hudson and Dr. Jack Levine.
What was billed as “the adventure beyond your office” was really a passionate forum on how to solve the world’s oral health problems—one preventive step at a time.

The 2010 ADA Volunteer Symposium, a two-day interactive course designed to generate interest in domestic and international volunteering, was brimming with examples and ideas of how to treat caries, from increasing a population’s access to fluoride to treating urgent care without much time to determining the most cost-effective treatments for a particular country.

What we really need is “a global oral health care course—isn’t it time?” asked Dr. Christopher Holmgren, a lecturer known for his work promoting global fluoride and one of the program’s six expert speakers featured at the symposium.

The program’s ultimate goal was to help participants identify the long-term goals and skills necessary for a successful volunteer program, how to integrate locally specific approaches both in the U.S. and abroad, and how to network to expand and disseminate the rewards of volunteerism.

Dr. Martin Hobdell shared his experiences of working in the Philippines, where he was part of a study that extracted “pulpally-involved teeth” in young children and followed them for four months. While the children didn’t grow any taller, they did experience an increase in weight and reported sleeping better.

“It’s not just about taking teeth out to remove pain,” explained Dr. Hobdell, a visiting professor from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

Dr. Brian Hollander talked about “keeping an open mind” as he shared some of his own tales. The Bethel, Alaska-based dentist called the transition from public to private practice “eye-opening.”

Twenty years ago, he noticed a Russian patient  with black spots on the teeth, one of the side effects of silver diamine fluoride. At the time he thought it was just a case of “bad dentistry” but it turned out, the little black spots left behind were a sign that caries had been arrested.

“Now I believe that maybe it’s the ‘silver bullet’ [a reference to a 2009 article in the Journal of Dental Research of the same name] to use in treating Alaska’s caries problems.”

All of the participants received continuing education credit for the paid, two-day course.
The symposium was underwritten by a grant from the Academy of Dentistry International. It was presented by the ADA Division of Global Affairs, the ADA International Development Subcommittee and the Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

The program’s experts were:

  • Susan Berryman, Med, an educational consultant and former faculty member at the University of Arizona School of Medicine.
  • Dr. Terry Dickinson, executive director of Virginia Dental Association known for his work with the Missions of Mercy projects and the 2010 ADA Humanitarian Award recipient.
  • Dr. Sally Hewett, chair, ADA International Development Subcommittee, program director of the ADA/Health Volunteers Overseas Laos program and a general dentist in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
  • Dr. Christopher Holmgren, international health care consultant; co-author of Atraumatic Restorative Treatment for dental caries and the WHO Basic Package of Oral Care.
  • Dr. Elaine Miginsky, former clinician for the Baltimore County Health Department who has served on the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners and is an avid HIS volunteer.
  • Sharad (Anil) Parajuli, MA, co-founder and coordinator of Himalayan HealthCare, a non-profit organization for rural development in Nepal.

To learn about international dental volunteer opportunities visit the ADA International Volunteer website at or contact the ADA Division of Global Affairs, 312.440.2726 or