I am pursuing a degree in Pre-Medicine with the aim of advancing into Dentistry. I admit that a lucrative income was one of my initial reasons for wanting to take up Dentistry because I want to raise my family from debt, but as I found out more about the profession, I realized that I do have a calling to this field of healthcare.
My home country is Singapore, in Southeast Asia. Where I come from, “Doctors Without Borders” are well known, but “Dentists Without Borders” are much lesser known. I learnt about “Dentists Without Borders” from Dr Kenny Poh, my mentor whom I underwent 68 hours of shadowing with this past Summer. Dr Poh is a dental surgeon by profession, and also a Singapore Armed Forces National Serviceman (SAF NS).
Like all SAF NSmen under 45 years old, Dr Poh is recalled for several weeks of Reservist duty each year. During in-camp exercise, the Reservists undergo regimented training so that they remain operationally ready to defend Singapore. The SAF’s Medical Officers – doctors, dentists and healthcare providers – as part of this mission to be operationally ready, are sometimes deployed to Third World Countries to provide medical or dental treatment to people who do not have ready access to the level of healthcare and oral care which we so often take for granted.
In Third World countries, Dr Poh has worked with other volunteer dentists and healthcare givers. This has given him the platform to share knowledge and experience, and among professionals, learn best practices from one another.
I understand from Dr Poh that at every stop he has made, the introduction and education of primary healthcare is essential. Many people in the villages that Dr Poh has visited do not own toothbrushes. They clear food trapped between teeth or in cavities using twigs and blades of leaves. Some are born with abnormally shaped teeth or have deformed teeth or no teeth following an accident – and these people have also lost their smiles. Primarily, I want to establish myself as a dentist and afterwards, help these people regain their smiles.