India 2018 Student Dental Mission
Three Senior Dental Students of Texas A&M College of Dentistry traveled to the Class President’s homeland July 18–31, 2018, to provide dental care to the community that had never had dental care. Pan Kaping spent his first 9 years in Ukhrul, Manipur, India before moving to Dallas, where he finished Lake Highlands High School and the University of Texas at Dallas. Having worked in Dr. T. Bob Davis’s General Dentistry private practice for over 3 years in Dallas, he was fully aware of the need observed upon arrival.
Joining him were close friend classmates Leke Olowokere and John Ratliff. Leke is of Nigerian descent although born in the USA and has been on mission trips with Pan to Guatemala, as has John. John has spent several years since graduating from Ole Miss founding and operating a week-long sports camp for disadvantaged youth spreading the message “You Gotta Believe,” currently located in Jackson, Mississippi. The proceeds go to help the underprivileged youth in Jackson. His interest in impacting young people has stimulated his participation in several dental mission trips.
Joining the trio were two seasoned Dental Missions Mentors, Dr. Bob Meyer and Dr. T. Bob Davis, plus Dr. Davis’s younger son, Creth, who with Mrs. Diane Meyer provided the sterilization, instrument, and supplies management. Dr. Meyer serves as Executive Director of the Christian Dental Society and along with his wife Diane does dental missions all over the world after his retirement from the Army as a Colonel in the Dental Corp (was dental director of the Ft. Carson Colorado Army Residency Program in his last assignment).
Interesting asides of Dr. Meyer were his West Point College Degree and later assigned the Army responsibility of establishing a dental unit whose charge was to deliver portable dental care to remote troops only reachable in a timely manner by parachute, with portable dental equipment in a backpack. Thus, his expertise at portable dental care led to his current opportunities. Dr. and Mrs. Meyer have authored the definitive book on portable dental missions, Portable Dental Missions Manual.
Dr. T. Bob has mentored Texas A&M (Baylor) students for over 37 years with annual student dental mission trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. He has served as the ADA’s Humanitarian 2018, one of the top awards ADA offers during their annual meeting, being the 11th recipient. The India trip was literally halfway around the world, where dental care is urgently needed, where economics are limited, but love and deep appreciation for the gift of dental care are so valued. The trip was conceived by Pan and Dr. Davis early in Pan’s employment but took some 6 years to bring to fruition, a timely wait so that the students could actually provide supervised dental care!
The trip was coordinated by Pan’s Mother and Dad (Mr. Zak and Gia Kaping) who had been on site for a month to set up and finalize details. They even provided the cooking and transportation, which included restoring a WWII Military Jeep-like-vehicle for the team’s use. On the R and R Day, Wednesday, the team traveled through the mountains near Myanmar to a family wedding where the elders there reported no white or black person had ever visited their remote village, this team is the first in their memory. They honored the volunteers with local custom-made ties, scarves, and vests, which are a part of the economy (as well as agriculture).
One of the special treats on the last day of the mission was a visit to and tour of the premier dental school in India, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences. Dr. Meyer demonstrated his portable dental systems and the team was treated to lunch and a good roundtable discussion of dental missions. The on-site observation of their Mobile Dental Vans and their preventive dentistry department was exciting to see. The warm gracious reception by the founding Dean Dr. Mahesh Verma and staff reaffirms the wonderful colleagues our profession has throughout the world!