Giving Back – A Letter from Guatemala
Guatemala, Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Burma, and India…Marin Community Clinic dentist Bich Nguyen, DDS has been to all of them – but not for vacations. Twelve weeks each year, she travels to underdeveloped countries to provide much-needed dental care.
Born in Vietnam, I emigrated to the U.S. with my family when I was 10 years old. My interest in dentistry started early (when I was in high school) and I eventually completed dental school at UCSF and opened a private practice.
Seven years ago, my life changed when I had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer dentist in Vietnam. I fell in love with the mission of service, so decided to give up private practice, work at Marin Community Clinic, and devote more time to international volunteer work.
When I volunteer, I work under the auspices of Global Dental Relief and Medico.org, traveling to Southeast Asia, Central America, and India. Sometimes, I serve as a team leader – and sometimes I even take my teenage sons to assist with non-clinical duties. It’s a real eye opener for them!
About 90% of the patients overseas are children. The team performs extractions, fillings, and cleanings, but also focuses on oral health education.
It’s heartbreaking. Most of these kids have never had any dental care. But we know we are making a big difference in their lives when we see the improvement on our return trips. Sometimes all they need during our next visit is a cleaning!
As I write this, we are in Guatemala. This trip, I am accompanied by Rebecca Santana, a registered dental assistant at Marin Community Clinics, who I sponsored so that she could help. In just the first two days, our team of four dentists, three hygienists and 14 non-dental volunteers screened 246 kids!
– Bich Nguyen, DDS emailing from Guatemala, August 2017