Dugoni School Volunteers Provide Care, Serve Communities in Jamaica and San Francisco

A group of volunteers and locals in Jamaica

Students, faculty and staff at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry have been volunteering in a variety of locations this fall, both in San Francisco and abroad.

A group of Dugoni School volunteers traveled to Jamaica during the autumn break in early October for a dentistry outreach trip. A total of 45 students and 10 faculty members spent the week caring for 637 children and adults of all ages during a visit to Trelawny Parish in Clark's Town, about an hour east of Montego Bay. In addition, a mobile clinic of two chairs was arranged to serve the staff members at the Sandals Resort where the team stayed. 

“I gained valuable insight and tips through working with my peers and faculty and formed close bonds,” said Sumi Hwang, DDS ’24. “In addition, I learned how to be creative with limited resources, and providing dental care to people who had limited access to care was a heartwarming experience. I will never forget the parting words of my last patient: ‘You changed my life.’”

The visit was part of the 1000 Smiles project of Great Shape! Inc., an organization that the Dugoni School of Dentistry has worked with in previous years. Volunteers conducted 282 extractions, 234 X-rays, 207 composites and amalgam fillings, 13 anterior root canals, 188 cleanings, 19 sealants and 54 fluoride treatments.

overhead shot of volunteers

“Having been to Jamaica last year as a D2 trip leader and having an incredible experience, I was really excited to return,” said trip leader Kayla Hunt, DDS ’24. “My favorite part about leading this service trip was seeing the actualization of all the planning and organization efforts of the student leadership team. We saw it through the teamwork of our classmates to provide excellent dental care, through the support that the faculty and Great Shape! Inc. staff provided and through the smiles of our patients leaving our clinics.”

“Being able to see how much appreciation and love the locals gave after receiving treatment made me feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to provide dental care for the sake of helping others,” commented trip leader Peto Choti, DDS ’25. “I learned so much and feel as though I have grown as a person and as a provider from this trip. I loved the faculty supervision and support that allowed me to develop my confidence and skills as a dental provider."

Kayla added, “I believe that everyone would benefit from participating in even just one of these trips as it can expand your world view and enhance your ability as a dental provider.”

Chinatown fair

Far closer to campus, dental students and faculty and participated in the free 28th Annual Chinatown Community Health Fair at the Chinatown YMCA in San Francisco on October 14. Volunteers provided first-come, first-served dental screenings for children and adults, and each attendee received a free dental health kit with toothbrush, paste, floss and other goodies. In addition, some patients were offered treatment procedures. Attendees also received oral health information had their questions answered about how to care for teeth, with translations available for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. The event helps reach people who lack dental insurance and raises awareness about the importance of ongoing dental care.

Outreach was organized by the Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) program, a student-run volunteer community service organization at the Dugoni School. SCOPE’s mission is to develop dental professionals committed to improving the health of all people.

“Establishing and explaining the oral health-systemic health connection is something we are taught as students here, and it was amazing to see this concept being applied as a means of preventative care,” said Matt Bui ’25, a SCOPE community engagement leader. “I had an awesome experience coordinating this event and hope to continue being involved in community outreach leadership in the future."

“Coordinating a health fair event offering free dental screenings to the Asian community was a valuable and fulfilling learning experience,” added Tiffany Tang, DDS ’25, also a SCOPE community engagement leader. “Oral health is often overlooked, and such events serve as an opportunity to raise awareness and provide accessible care to the community. Community outreach in the form of health fairs is important for community engagement, collaboration among healthcare professionals and spreading compassion. Overall, I had an amazing time coordinating this event and it reinforced my mission to be involved in community outreach to ensure that underserved populations receive care.”

The fair was co-organized by the Gum Moon Residence Hall/Asian Women’s Resource Center and NICOS Chinese Health Coalition. This annual community event convenes more than 30 health and human service organizations and mobilizes nearly 100 volunteers to offer a wide range of healthcare services for the public.

volunteering at the food bank

Across town, the Employee Volunteer Opportunities Committee (EVOC) coordinated time for employees to volunteer at the SF-Marin Food Bank on October 3 and October 6. Twenty Dugoni School employees assisted with building grocery bags, organizing produce, repackaging food items, sorting through food donations and assembling grocery boxes.

EVOC was formed to identify opportunities for faculty and staff to volunteer with local non-profit organizations outside of dentistry. In addition to volunteer events like these, the group also holds donation drives.

“It was a treat to spend time with colleagues outside of the office, working together to support the mission of the food bank and to give back to the community,” said staff member Rebecca Anaya. “I consider it a win-win-win!”