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848 San Pablo Ave
Pinole, CA, 94564
United States

Smiles from Guatemala




Smiles from Guatemala

Student Profile

Jocelin Calcagno is from Arizona. She recently graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Public Health. She has taken the DAT and has applied for dental school. Her goal is to obtain both a DMD and MPH with a focus on children's oral health. She has volunteered with local organizations including Give Kids A Smile Day and was a member of the Pre-Dental Society during her undergraduate. She grew up in an immigrant community and witnessed the need for culturally competent affordable dental services for underserved communities.


My trip to Guatemala 2017

My trip to Guatemala started with an early morning flight out of Orlando, Florida. I arrived midday in Guatemala City and was escorted to Antigua. Once I got to Antigua I was impressed with the colorful buildings, the beautiful landscape, and especially the hotel I was staying at. My first night in Antigua was better than I ever imagined. The food was delicious, the weather was perfect, and I got to meet my roommate who had just finished dental school in India. I felt immediately comfortable and excited for the rest of the week.

After a phenomenal tour of Antigua, and some more delicious food, we made our way to San Martin to start our work in the clinic. We had a bumpy ride through the lush and steep hills of Guatemala, but we arrived safely and eager to start working. It was market day in the city, and I had never seen a busier street filled with people selling fruit, sandals, clothes, and everything else you would usually find at a convenient store. Within all the madness of the market, we located the clinic and found kids already lined up on the side of the building to start their intake.

I was assigned to work as an assistant with a dentist named Holly. I remember feeling nervous because I had never assisted a dentist before. I had only shadowed dentists, so this was my first time getting my hands in the mouth of a patient. Holly was a great teacher. She walked me through every procedure and taught me all about the different instruments. My favorite part of being an assistant was getting to interact with the kids, but also being a helping hand to the dentist. Being able to speak Spanish came in handy during intake when the kids were nervous about receiving their anesthetics, but I was able to lend my hand to hold and the kids always left with a smile.

I continued to work as an assistant the remaining days of the clinic with different dentists. It was fun to see their style and perspective on dentistry because each one was different. My experience in the clinic was better than I could ever ask for. Knowing that I was able to make a dent in the health profiles of the kids living in San Martin is a memory that I will always cherish. Along with the clinical aspect of the trip, I was able to learn about the Guatemalan culture, explore the city, meet the most incredible friends, and have fun!

I initially was inspired to volunteer on this trip because I have a public health background and did similar “free dental days” in my community. I saw the importance of oral health and learned how easily it can be ignored. GDR was the opportunity I was looking for and it would have not been possible for me to participate in the project if it weren’t for the Cranberry scholarship that I received. This trip solidified my passion for dentistry and the public health field by showing me how they can work hand in hand. I will continue my crusade in applying to dental school this summer, and I look forward to attending more GDR trips in the future. 

By Jocelin Calcagno, March & April, 2017