SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The 375th Dental Squadron at Scott Air Force Base traveled to Cairo, Illinois, in June to treat low-income patients in rural areas who may not have access to dental care.
The purpose of the trip was to facilitate treating low-income patients in rural areas that may not have access to dental care.
“Part of what we do [at Scott AFB] is community outreach and building those relationships,” said Maj. Amber Miller, 375th DS chief of endodontics. Not only is it good for the Air Force but it is good for other providers in the area and hopefully we can get other dental providers involved in community outreach if they find out we are a part of something like this.”
The 375th DS, along with the United States Army and Navy Guard and Reserve units set up shop in a high school to provide medical services to 3,337 patients. The units performed 21,967 dental procedures, which totaled $1,359,920 in treatment.
“It was a very positive experience,” said Miller. “I think it brings to light the privileges that we have and also the hardships other people are facing every day. This is the second humanitarian effort I’ve done in the Air Force and it has always been a very positive experience. It’s a great way to take the skills I have and use them to help other people.”
Providing care to residents of the area seemed to leave a lasting impression on the patients, said Capt. Lawrence McCarthy, 375th DS dentist.
“I think immediately we got a lot of feedback from the community and they were super appreciative,” said McCarthy. “You’d see some of the same faces every day and they would praise us for being there.”
While working out of a high school, members of the 375th DS got to experience their duties without the luxury of the dental clinic on base. The equipment used during the effort is often used in a deployed environment.
Working out of a high school also gave the 375th DS an opportunity to practice in a new, uncontrolled environment where the equipment is similar to what is found at deployed locations.
“It’s a readiness exercise,” said McCarthy. “One of the greatest things about it was the chance to see what your equipment can do in the field and what you can do in the field. It was certainly a challenge.”
McCarthy said one of the main challenges the 375th DS had during the effort was not having all the equipment they usually have to work with. They “stayed in their lane” with the treatment and he was overall impressed with how they managed.
The humanitarian outreach at Cairo not only allowed the 375th DS to practice their skills but also showed them how their work can positively change lives.
“It was an eye opener,” said Airman Shaina Nehf, 375th DS dental assistant. “I know my impact as a dental assistant but doing humanitarian work I can feel it. It made me grateful. It was really great to help those people and learn as much as I did.”