Mongolian Mission Trip Experience

Dr. Jon Golub, A ’83, D ’85, DG ’87, DP ’18

I don’t know why I was surprised when my old friend Eli Davidyan, D’85 agreed to join my wife Jamie Diament-Golub, D’87, DP’18, on our dental trip to Mongolia with only one month left to go before our departure. He was a last minute fill-in, in response to my posting on facebook, for one of the 8 dentists who with seven support staff were making this trip to the edge of the Gobi Desert.

This was our seventh trip with “KIDS”, Kids International Dental Services. and by far our most adventurous. Traveling with KIDS, we have visited both Southeast Asia and Central America providing pro bono dental care to impoverished children throughout the world. Each trip has its own unique challenges and rewards. In Cambodia we have overcome severe heat and the lack of electricity while in Guatemala we have survived the winding roads leading to the mountaintop villages. Interestingly, our greatest challenge on this trip was convincing the customs officials that our welcoming letters from the provincial government conferred permission for us to transport lidocaine through their checkpoint. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, we were experiencing a form of ‘third world taxation’ that is somewhat common in this part of the world. It was an auspicious start to a very rewarding trip.

As difficult as our arrival was at the “UB”, Ulaanbaatar airport, the countryside welcomed us with open arms. The Zavkhan province has very little access to dental care and almost no knowledge of the link between diet and caries. We have come to realize on previous trips that educating the population is the single most important legacy that we can leave behind. With a modest team, we were able to treat over 2000 children including 1087 extractions of non restorable teeth , and provide topical fluoride treatment and oral hygiene instructions to everyone.

Many of our patients were the children of nomadic herders who live in round huts that are called “gers.” The sheep and cattle that they tend often wander freely through town. We were constantly reminded of the harsh conditions in this region with snow falling on our first work day in May and with the lack of fruits and vegetables. In fact, our dinners were usually tough cuts of meat that were boiled and then fried in an attempt to make them softer and tastier.
While our arrival in this country gave us worry, our goodbye party left us speechless. The mayor and local government arranged an afternoon of culture during which we rode mongolian camels and stallions and ate traditional mongolian fare. We were presented with small gifts made by the schoolchildren who had been our patients while mongolian musicians and a throat singer entertained us. We toasted each other with Genghis Khan vodka and pledged to see each other again. Our team was emotionally overwhelmed by the communities graciousness and we left we a tremendous feeling of gratefulness to have experienced such a lifetime adventure.
Kids international Dental Services is planning on returning to Mongolia next spring 2015. For more information on this or any of their trips to Guatemala, The Philippines or Cambodia please visit their website at kidservices.org.

Dr. Jon Golub, A ’83, D ’85, DG ’87, DP ’18

 

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