The Micronesia Dental Support Project (MDSP) was co-founded in 2004 with my father-in-law Dr. Barry Staley, a retired periodontist in Santa Cruz, CA. It became officially sponsored by United Charitable Program (www.unitedcp.org), a registered 501(c)3 public charity based in Virginia to offer tax deductible donations for our supporters.
The mission of of MDSP is to make quality dental care and equipment accessible to the impoverished people in the Pacific island nation of Micronesia specifically the under-served population living on the small and remote outer islands.
Our strategy is to recruit volunteers comprising of dentists, hygienists, community health educators, to travel to locations in Micronesia to set up fully-functional remote dental clinics to provide free acute dental care services and lead preventive care education to the children. To mentor and encourage young Micronesians to enter the medical field, we partner with local high schools to provide student translators to accompany the teams during the clinics.
The MDSP was originally envisioned in 2004 as a way to support the efforts of local dentists in Chuuk State by providing donated equipment. It was co-founded by Dr. Barry Staley to support the efforts of his daughter, my wife Desha Staley when we were serving as volunteer administrators at Xavier High School in Chuuk, Micronesia. Upon learning of the lack of adequate dental supplies and equipment at the government-operated dental clinic at the Department of Public Health, Dr. Staley began to solicit his national network of dentists to donate supplies and equipment to support the local efforts of the government in Micronesia. Based out his home, Dr. Staley filled a 20-foot container with over $400,000 worth of donated equipment and supplies which he proceeded to ship on Matson Shipping Lines to Chuuk. He traveled with his librarian wife Stephanie to help set up and train the local staff on the use of their equipment.
Phase II: MDSP Clinics
During his time in Chuuk, Dr. Staley accompanied me to visit my family living on the outer island of Houk in the Northwest region. While there we noticed that the change of diet from locally grown food to imported processed food items coupled with the inaccessibility of dental services has led to major teeth decay among the children in those outer islands. It was apparent that sending dental equipment alone to the dental clinic on the main island of Weno was not enough as the outer islanders could not access the clinic; they began to discuss the idea of bringing teams of volunteer dentists to provide quality dental services to the children. Upon returning home to Santa Cruz, CA, Dr. Staley recruited a team of volunteer dentists to travel to the outer islands to operate remote dental clinics.
In the Summer of 2008, MDSP sent the first team to Chuuk, Micronesia. In the span of five days, the free community dental clinic served over 500 patients mostly children and women in five locations. Working collaboratively with the local Chuuk State Public Health Department and Xavier High School’s Community Service Project program, MDSP Team 2008 operated free clinics at the Public Health Clinic, College of Micronesia campus, Toloas Community Center, Sapuk village, and the Pollap Community Center in Iras village before returning to the States. Click here to view photos from the trip on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/mdsproject
Phase III: Capacity-Building for Sustainable Services
Using lessons learned from the successful service trip in 2008, the MDSP has recruited another team of volunteer dentists and an experienced Support Team to travel to Chuuk State in June 2012 to operate the same level of quality services for the outer island communities focusing this time on the outer islands of Namonweito by way of Onoun. The itinerary for the new team will follow the basic outline of the previous trip, i.e. travel to the outer islands, set up remote clinics and provide free services to the children first followed by mothers and other adults.
MDSP is expanding its roles in Chuuk State from mere dental care provider to providing leadership in capacity-building efforts for the outer islanders. In addition to operating the free dental clinics, MDSP Program Manager Vidalino Raatior will lead a team of local leaders to travel to the outer islands to meet with the people to build support for a locally-led, FSM-chartered, and Weno-based NGO called Fanapi Foundation.