Two CCCC dental assistant grads help children in Costa Rica
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Anna Wheeler and Stephanie Boney, graduates of the Central Carolina Community College Dental Assisting ... (more)
SANFORD -- Anna Wheeler, of Duncan, and Stephanie Boney, of Angier, graduated from the Central Carolina Community College Dental Assisting program in 2014 and landed their dream job with pediatric dentist Dr. Ray Tseng, of Southern Smiles Dentistry in Cameron, Raeford, and Cary. Neither of them knew how great a challenge they would face as new employees of the dental practice.
Costa Rica has a population of over four million people, but 23 percent still live in poverty. Sponsored by the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, Tseng and his associates make an annual journey to the country to provide free dental care to impoverished children. In 2015, he invited both Wheeler and Boney to go along. The team set up shop at a university in Puntarenus on the Pacific Coast of the island.
"We set up all of our dental supplies in about five classrooms," said Wheeler. "Our office contained education, fluoride, extraction and two restorative rooms. I primarily worked in the extraction room because not many people wanted to be in there."
Wheeler, who decided on dental assisting while still in high school, said she wanted a career that would never become boring, and the different tasks and responsibilities of a dental assistant, especially one who practices in Costa Rica, assured her of that.
"Unfortunately, I cannot speak Spanish, so I really leaned on the translators at the university, most of whom were students," said Wheeler. "All of the people I interacted with were really amazing, very sweet and not shy at all."
The trip to Costa Rica was the first time Wheeler had been out of the U.S. and the first time she had been on an airplane. "I will never forget the trip itself and the opportunity to help the patients," she said. "When you have a young patient come in for treatment who has previously had a bad experience elsewhere, and you can turn that around and make that patient look forward to going to the dentist again, that's when you know you are doing a good job."
Boney said she wanted to work in a profession that allowed her to get to know her patients on a personal level, and found that in dental assisting.
While in Costa Rica, Boney was impressed with the resilient spirit of the people she served. "They have so little, but every person I was able to talk with seemed to be so carefree and happy with the lives they live. The people were so friendly and willing to help. It amazes me how they can have little, but make the best of it," said Boney.
One experience that will remain with her forever is that of a little girl who needed an extraction. "It took everyone in the room to hold her and talk to her to provide the treatment she needed, she was so scared," said Boney. "But we were able to get things done. She had multiple teeth that needed to be extracted, and the doctors asked her mother to bring her back the next day. None of us thought we would see her again, but as soon as we arrived at the work site the next morning, she was the first one in line with a big smile on her face."
Both Wheeler and Boney said they would like to go back to Costa Rica. "It is something I plan to do every year, if possible," said Boney.
"I would most definitely go back and have this experience again," said Wheeler. "A lot of time and preparation goes into a trip like this, but it is very rewarding."
For more information on Central Carolina Community College's Dental Assisting Program, visit the college website at www.cccc.edu.
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