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Medical Clinic in Mexico Receives Support from U.S. Students

by Connie K. Ho | October 3rd, 2011

Chris Chun found himself reading a children’s book to a small girl in Tecate, a rural town in Mexico. Chun, a dual major in Biology and Spanish, was attempting to soothe the girl. Seated in an upholstered dental chair, the girl was scared of the procedure but Chun was able to calm her down a bit. He felt that it was a good idea to interact with her first hand - she seemed to be holding on and putting up a strong front. However, once the dentist began extracting the tooth, the girl broke down, crying and bawling. With no other option, the dental assistants crowded around her and tried to hold her down. Chun felt the extraction was successful at the end of the procedure, but still felt the girl’s pain as she sat subdued with a blank expression on her face. These were one of the memories he was left with as a medical mission volunteer in Mexico.

Chun, a past member of the Flying Samaritans (otherwise known as the Flying Sams) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), has since enrolled at dental school at the University of California, Los Angeles. He knew that he always wanted to be a dentist, but his experience with the Flying Sams reaffirmed his decision to apply to dental school. He first found out about Flying Sams through a friend and, following his first few meetings, he attended monthly medical trips to the El Testerazo Clinic.

“I was happy to talk to her after the procedure and she was recovering from the experience but, things like that, I do remember the most,” commented Chun on his experience with Flying Sams. “It was just the perfect opportunity to hone my language skills and help those less fortunate.”

While on the medical missions, Chun assisted in a variety of tasks to provide free dental and medical care. On any given day, the clinic would see 50 to 100 patients. Having studied Spanish in school, Chun was given the responsibility to translate for patients and noted that the translation experience was one of his favorite moments.

“It’s one of the most rewarding experiences, it’s very exciting. You can see the difference. A lot of the students can’t speak Spanish and, when I’m there, it’s pretty special because the patients can come to you,” remarked Chun. “I felt like I could establish more of a personal connection, personal relationship with them. Talking to them was a really rewarding aspect of it.”

After graduating dental school, Chun hopes to visit places throughout South America and provide free dental work for those who have limited access to health care.

“It’s necessary to go out and help people not only in the U.S., but also outside of the U.S.,” said Chun. “School is definitely important, but at the same time, volunteering outside of school, whether it’s for the community or traveling outside of the US doing whatever you need to do, I think it’s as important and it keeps you on track for whatever you’re doing after school. By doing that now, you can stay on track to not only help yourself but also help others who don’t have access to all that.”

Photos via UCI Flying Sams Website


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