Local dental, vision students gain experience at Remote Area Medical clinic.
Lakewood Ranch’s Haley Ciccarelli, a junior at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine, said she will be fortunate to volunteer Oct. 13-14 at the Remote Area Medical clinic.
“I was actually one of the last dental students to be allowed to volunteer for RAM,” said Ciccarelli. “They only let 40 students volunteer, and they had to scrap the waitlist because it was getting so long. I think like 150 students tried to sign up.”
Ciccarelli will be assisting dentists, who will be providing free dental care to patients, some who might have waited since last year to find help.
“For us, I think it’s cool to look at a dentist’s side of it,” Ciccarelli said. “We’re getting to watch dentists work on patients, sometimes on extreme cases, and we also get to see working dentists give up their (free time) to help people.”
LECOM allows only third-year dental students to volunteer at RAM, and they only are allowed to assist. But the value is watching the work.
Dr. Blair Snoke, a LECOM professor who will be supervising the students, said he has seen some extreme cases in the past.
“I’ll give you an example: There was a man two years ago who came to LECOM because he needed to have all his teeth removed to begin radiation treatment for cancer,” Snoke said. “We could only allow the students to pull three teeth at a time, but it just so happened that RAM was at MTC that week. He went to the RAM clinic, had all his teeth pulled, and was able to start his treatment on time.”
“There are so many people in the community who are in need,” said LECOM student Maggie Pahl. “And we’re learning all of these skills that are useful. It’s good for us to watch doctors who are actually doing it in real time.”
Manatee Technical College visual assistants in training will also be helping with the visual side of treatment at RAM.
All of the MTC visual assistants have just begun their instruction and this, for most of them, will be their first experience working with real patients.
“We’re nervous but excited,” said Palmetto’s Lucia Loera. “We’ve been practicing on each other, but it will be different to do it on actual people.”
The students will be helping to fit frames, putting in eye drops to dilate the eye for exams and operating an autorefractor machine, which determines the correct lens prescription automatically.
Palmetto’s Ruby Vasquez is another visual assistant student who is excited to volunteer at RAM.
“There are kids you put glasses on who will be able to see clearly for the first time,” Vasquez said. “A lot of people don’t have insurance that covers vision, or it’s something they put off for a long time.”
Along with approximately 20 visual assistant students from MTC and 40 students from LECOM, there will also be licensed dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, optometrists and ophthalmologists who have volunteered their time.