The medical team of the Brooklyn-based APC (Action, Performance and Commitment) Community Services group recently joined dental team members from Loma Linda University Dental School in California in conducting what the group described as challenging, though successful, medical and dental missions to St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The group’s Guyanese-born leader, Dr. Emanuel McLean, told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview that the mission to St. Lucia that began on June 24 “would go down in history as one of the most challenging but most successful missions the organization has ever undertaken.”
She said the team comprised 49 members: Three medical doctors, five dentists, two dental assistants, eight nurses, three health educators, eight dental hygiene students, 12 dental students, one physical therapist, one information technology specialist, one speech therapist and five assistants.
The first assignment in St. Lucia was a Health and Dental Symposium on June 25; the Health Symposium was conducted in Balata Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church, focusing on heart diseases, and prostate and breast cancers.
Drs. Edward Kankam and Vanessa Oyefeso, and Registered Nurse Sylvia Modeste were the presenters, with Dr. Naomi Modeste serving as moderator.
The Dental Symposium was held at Mon Repo, with Dr. Alan Woodson serving as moderator and presentations conducted by dental and hygiene students.
But Emanuel McLean said the first challenge confronting the group was the decision by the St. Lucia Dental Council to “restrict the activities of the dental students.
“This was a major problem because it threatened the core of what constitutes mission trips – that of providing opportunities for young dental professionals in training to get hands-on experience, while providing valuable services to the community,” Dr. Emanuel McLean said. “This was, indeed, a major barrier.”
She said she and Dr. Woodson then decided to reach out to the leadership of the local Seventh-day Adventist church in neighboring St. Vincent and the Grenadines — Pastors Dermoth Baptiste and Terence Haynes and dentist Dr. Jardine.
“This was a massive undertaking, but they rose to the occasion,” said McLean, adding that the second major challenge was that medication and dental supplies that were shipped for the mission were “detained” at the St. Lucia port.
“And it was stated that the port is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and many said it was impossible to get these over the weekend,” she continued, stating that the group, in faith, asked God to intervene, “and what was impossible to man was made possible by God.”
McLean said the medications and supplies were delivered on Sunday, June 26: “What a miracle!”
But the next “daunting task” was figuring how to get the dental team from St. Lucia to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Dr. McLean, stating that the option of traveling via air “proved futile because the cost was exorbitant.”
The group thus began the exploration of chartering a boat, said Dr. Emanuel McLean, with Dr. Woodson making a “great contact” and getting a charter “after overcoming a few obstacles.” Plans were then made for the team to travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on June 27, McLean said.
She said a “massive” Health Exposition was held on June 26 at the Belle Vue Primary School in St. Lucia, by the medical team, assisted by local health professionals and coordinated by Pastors Lucius Philip and Randolph.
The exposition, which attracted more than 200 participants, offered free testing for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index (BMI) and vision screening. Health Education and Health Age were also conducted, McLean said.
On the dental team’s visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Emanuel McLean said, while the trip was “very successful, clearing customs and immigration took a very long time.”
She also said the team’s bus broke down as it headed to Buccament, a district about five miles from the Vincentian capital, Kingstown, but added that 100 patients were waiting at 4 pm for dental services.
Back in St. Lucia, the medical team provided services in Laborie Village, to more than 150 people, on June 27, said McLean, stating that screenings were also done for vision, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, among others, and free eye glasses were distributed.
Health education were conducted, speech and language evaluation were done, and free medications were given out, she said.
McLean said the medical team provided clinics at Canaries, Micoud, Anse and La Raye to over 1,000 nationals, with health education presentations made at Eucharist Lewis SDA Primary School, Maranatha SDA Church, Seventh-day Adventist Academy and Labayee SDA Primary School.
McLean, a devout Seventh-day Adventist also preached, on July 2, on the importance of taking responsibility for one’s health, at the Castries SDA Church. This was followed by health and dental presentations.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the dental team also provided services in Kingstown, Sandy Bay, Mesopotamia, Georgetown, Layou, Fancy, Calliaqua and Bequia, with 619 procedures completed.
Donna Barajas, a dental assistant, who was on her first mission, said it as “an amazing experience to observe the work of the students.
“They were calm and professional while providing services; they were not nervous at all,” she said.
“This was the most challenging but most rewarding mission trip I have done,” said dental team leader Dr. Woodson.
Optometrist Dr. Lenward McCulla said: “It was a privilege to serve the people of St. Lucia,” adding, “there was such great need for medical and vision care especially in some of the small villages.”
“I know that our mission made a positive impact in many of the people living in underserved areas,” he said.
Emanuel McLean said she was “gratified” that her group was able to provide services to over 2,000 people in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“This is the largest number we have been able to serve in any mission trip,” she said. “This mission was filled with challenges, but God came through for us with many miracles.
“I am grateful to all who donated their time and resources to making this mission a success,” she added. “To God be the glory!”