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International volunteer workshop focuses on best practices, prevention, sustainability

May 21, 2018

By Kimber Solana

Group photo of workshop attendees
Brainstorm: About 70 dentists and international dental volunteer organization leaders, including dental school faculty, break in to small teams to discuss best practice ideas on international volunteerism during a May 11 workshop at ADA Headquarters.
From identifying locations and volunteer recruitment to logistics and sustainability, about 70 dentists and international dental volunteer organization leaders who volunteer their time, skills and services abroad traded ideas and developed best practices during a one-day workshop held May 11 at the ADA Headquarters.

"Everyone wants to [volunteer] but there's more to it than packing your bag, pulling a few teeth, patting yourself on the back and coming home," said Dr. Francis G. Serio, the 2015 recipient of the ADA Humanitarian Award, in welcoming the volunteers. "This is a particularly timely meeting so we can influence others to do it the right way so people are not left worse off, including the people we're trying to help."

Dr. Serio underscored the need for volunteers to focus on prevention, working with the local community, building local capacity, follow-up care and sustainability.

"We cannot drill and fill and extract our way from oral health problems," he said.

Photo of Dr. Serio speaking at workshop
Welcome: Dr. Francis G. Serio, the 2015 recipient of the ADA Humanitarian Award, welcomes volunteers attending the International Volunteer Dental Projects Best Practices Workshop at ADA Headquarters.
"Prevention is key."

The International Volunteer Dental Projects Best Practices Workshop was designed for groups and institutions that are already involved in planning, directing or implementing international volunteer dental projects dedicated to either the provision of care or training.

The one-day workshop included breakout sessions that helped volunteers discuss and share with each other their ideas in identifying communities and existing sites for new teams, recruiting and training volunteers, handling onsite arrangements such as lodging and translators, and integrating locals in their work.

"Some of you have different ideas, some may have better ideas that we can all learn from," Dr. Serio said.

The volunteers also delved into discussing ethical considerations when volunteering internationally, including legal issues and the positive and negative impacts on the local community. A best practices guide will be developed from the outcomes of the small group work.

Image of ADA Foundation logoThe workshop was sponsored by the ADA Foundation, International College of Dentists, Academy of Dentistry International, Aseptico and Henry Schein.

For more information about international volunteerism and to find a volunteer opportunity, visit the ADA Foundation's international volunteer website,

A CE course on international volunteerism called Volunteering Internationally: Contribute to Long-Term Improvements in Global Oral Health (8302) will be offered during ADA 2018 in Honolulu at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 21. A video recording of the workshop will be available in June at