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Dental students provide care through mission trip to Guatemala

More than 150 procedures performed

With a heart for patients in rural West Virginia, the same compassion was in play when West Virginia University School of Dentistry students and faculty visited Antigua, Guatemala in March.

A team made up of three faculty members and seven students spent several days at Hospital Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro where they saw an average of 25 patients a day.

“Most of the patients came from rural areas where there is no access to oral health care. They do not have health insurance, come from low income households, and have minimal educational opportunities,” Dr. Juan Bugueno, associate professor and oral medicine provider.

Dr. Bugueno and students will be hosting a talk about the trip on Friday, April 12, 2024 in room 1095 at 12 pm. Some describe it as a life changing journey of care. 

For third-year dental student Joey Skonieczny, it was the longest international trip he has taken outside North America. 

"I knew it was something I definitely wanted to be part of. That's why I jumped on the opportunity to go. You saw hard people were working to get what they have. When we were wearing our scrubs they were even happier to see us because they knew we were there to help," said Skonieczny.  

The trip, organized by the mission group Hands and Hearts for Christ in Buckhannon, W.Va., also included Dr. Margaret Conde and Dr. Kevin Conde, adjunct faculty members and the following students.

Hunter Wright – Class 2024
Dustin Yoakum – Class 2024
Erin Walters – Class 2024
Karlee Alderman – Class 2024
Emily Uihlein – Class 2024
Trace Bennett – Class 2025
Joey Skonieczny – Class 2025

"The work came easy and was also such a confidence boosting experience because as a third-year student, there were still things, going into the week, I felt unsure of.  In Guatemala, I got to have somebody around that I can easily as questions to when I have them. I had fourth-year students assisting me and me assisting them, so I learned a lot from them," Skonieczny said. 

He treated 14 patients as the main provider and assisted with about 20 patients. 

The Hands for Hearts website describes its mission as providing “free medical and surgical care for those who need it, where they need it.”

Antigua patients ranged in age from five years old to 80 years old. All of the patients received a dental exam and periapical x-rays along with dozens of both simple and complex procedures.

They included:

  • 80 extractions
  • 65 restorations (composites)
  • Some fluoride applications
  • 7 root canal treatments (anterior teeth and premolars) with respective restorative work
  • 10 cleanings
  • 9 partials

You can see a full photo gallery of the trip online.