Trelawny Parish, North Central Jamaica
The rich heritage of the Jamaica Project began in April 1986 when Dr. Mario Saravia assembled and directed a team of thirteen compassionate dental students along with faculty to communities in Jamaica with little or no access to dental care. At the time, Saravia was a faculty in the pediatric department at VCU and was inspired to make a difference by the realization of the dental crisis in Jamaica through a friend in the Flying Dentists Association. The trip lasted two weeks and treated over 1200 patients. Due to the prevalence of severe decay in the population (due mostly to chewing on sugar cane), services were limited to extractions.
Since the initial trip, the project has expanded to include restorative and preventive dental procedures including oral health education. In 2014 "Seal Teams" were created to place sealants on first molars of six year olds in schools in Duanvale, Jackson Town, and Clarks Town. This effort began a long-term initiative of sealant placement on children throughout Trelawny schools annually.
The Jamaica Project is conducted over the course of three weeks during the fall semester. Three teams comprised of senior dental and dental hygiene students, pediatric dental residents, and dental and dental hygiene faculty are assigned one week missions. Most of the treatment is rendered in Long Pond Clinic at Everglades Sugar Refinery in Clarks Town, but day trips to Ulster Springs and Good Hope Plantation allow additional access for people of the Parish who would not normally have that exposure.
Student selection is competitive and based on involvement in fundraising efforts coordinated by students. These fundraising events help offset the cost of the trip. Students pay for airfare and meals.