Lush green vegetation, pristine seawater and white beaches dotted with sparse swimmers and beach partygoers. Such scenery greeted the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist Dental Clinic team when the nine-seater plane touched down at the airport in Tinian.
The flight was only 18 minutes from Saipan, but the excitement of the group from the SDA clinic was obvious. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and low number of clinic providers, it took almost three years for the team to visit Tinian again. The Saipan SDA Clinic’s outreach program normally takes the group to other CNMI islands, like Tinian and Rota, every year.
This year’s Free Clinic outreach in Tinian, conducted on November 13, 2022, provided dental screening, prophylaxis and dental extraction to 27 patients. Forty individuals also had their glucose levels tested. Ninety oral kits that contain toothbrushes, dental floss, face masks and souvenir pens were given away. Vibrant Life magazines filled with valuable health information were also distributed.
There seems to be an apparent need for dental services in Tinian. A patient came in with a severe toothache. His wife stated that he had been experiencing pain for over a year and had been woken at night because of the terrible pain. After expressing their sincere gratitude for the extraction, Dentist Dr. Oh Ock Kwon said, “Their expression of gratitude and smiles touched my heart and I am so thankful that God could use us to share His love.”
In a survey conducted to patients after receiving their treatment, 29% responded that they would likely not seek care if there were no free clinic conducted that day. Reasons cited include having no insurance (100%), cost (50%) and no available free clinic (50%). One patient expressed her appreciation with the longing that our team comes to the island at least every six months.
One patient who came for extractions needed help in communicating in English. Fortunately, a clinic staff in Saipan was available to provide virtual translation. After the extraction, the patient held Dr. Kwon’s hand tightly and gave her a warm hug, repeating the words “Thank you!” Dr. Kwon believes that moments like that will bring her and the Saipan Dental Free Clinic team to future outreach programs repeatedly.
Vince Sablan Jr., a new team member who was born and raised in Tinian, compares the free dental program to a grain of sand that tips the scale. He said, “Like one act of kindness that can certainly make a difference, the SDA free service can definitely tip the scale for the better good in the service to the community.”
The daylong program was a success because those who believe in our mission opened their doors as our venue. Our special thanks goes to the Tinian Department of Community and Cultural Affairs for the use of the gym during the registration and health screening. We also appreciate the Tinian Health Dental Clinic for providing their space for the treatments.
The Tinian free community service was a collaborative effort with the sponsorship of the Adventist churches in Tinian and Saipan and the participation of the Tinian Public Health Services (TPHS) and the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc. (NMPASI). TPHS offered free flu shots, while NMPASI provided information about their advocacy services for individuals with disabilities.
The day’s event was also participated in by the U.S. Navy Seabees members assigned in Tinian. As one patient commented, “Including the U.S. Navy Corpsmen is a great idea!” With a weekend that began with Veterans Day, it sounds like the free clinic was also a great way to honor the veterans with the help of our service men.