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Devils and Miracles: DMC’s 2022 Dental Outreach Program to Grenada

November 4, 2022
by Michael Carabash, BA, LLB, JD, MBA, CDPM


Devil! Devil! Come And Play.
Emancipated. But Drag the Chain.
Let Blackened Blood Fill Your Vein.
Escape From Thought. Go Insane.
On with the Horns! Masquerade!
Now Rise Like Ash of Burned Cane.

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– Rise Like Ash of Burned Cane –

Floating High. Beyond Terrain.
Over Clouds to the Astral Plane. Where
Rivers o’ Rum Never Drain And We
Reap the Harvest Every Day. So
Eat and Drink, Smoke and Slay that
Soca Beat That’s In Your Brain. ‘Cause
This is Where You’ll Remain – An
Endless Party with Friends and Flames to
Reach New Highs: It’s Jab’s J’ouvert.

– Now Come and Play! –

There’s something special about Grenada. Admittedly, this so-called “Isle of Spice” exports some of the world’s best nutmeg, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, mace, bananas, coconut and exotic fruit (including my absolute favourite: soursop!). And, yes, its scenic landscapes feature picturesque beaches and coloured houses atop lush hills.

But Grenada is much more. It’s an island that has suffered tremendous conflict and trauma over the years – from warring factions of Indigenous peoples, French and British colonization, slavery and emancipation, independence and civil conflict, a U.S.-led invasion in 1983 to quell a Marxist-Leninist coup d’etat and even Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005).

But despite this, the character of Grenadians today is exemplary. They are a welcoming and vibrant people (with just over 100,000 souls). They boast a stable democratic system, a self-reliant and sustainable economy, relatively low crime, and a reasonable cost of living. If you haven’t been, you simply must.

And that’s why, when I’m not preparing, marketing and selling dental practices, I love organizing annual dental outreach trips to this beautiful Island of angelic people. But don’t be fooled; devils live here, too.

JAB JAB

When we did our first trip in August 2019, we didn’t know what to expect with this new island. At one point, our adventurous group of dentists and hygienists decided to participate in Spicemas – Grenada’s annual carnival celebration.

One event, called “Jab Jab” (literally: “Devil Devil”), saw tens of thousands of Grenadians converge on a main street in the capital of St. George’s during the wee morning hours to have a party to end all parties. Many dressed like a molasses devil: oiled or painted, donning cattle and goat horns and holding thick chains, drinking and smoking, and dancing to dark and heavy soca music, which was being blasted from trucks equipped with giant speakers. It. Was. Surreal.

Jab Jab dates back to Grenada’s colonial days. Leading up to Lent, the French ruling class would masquerade in fancy costumes and dance to well-tuned orchestras. Ex-slaves, with limited means, would go out into the streets to celebrate the festivities, but with a big twist: they made themselves look like molasses devils and dance to crude beats they made from hitting drums and blowing on conch shells. The purpose? To both scare the white colonizers and remind all of the evils that society had inflicted upon them. Jab Jab epitomizes Grenadians’ freedom and they celebrate proudly.

Miracles

Fast forward to August 2022.

After a 3-year hiatus due to COVID-19, we were finally able to come back to Grenada to give back to the locals. And we came back with a vengeance: a giant group of U of T dental students (led by Dr. Daniel Biner and his family), Canadian and U.S. dentists, hygienists from Oregon, and support staff were able to treat a whopping 2,018 patients after 15 clinical days (that’s roughly 2 percent of the entire population) with extractions, fillings, cleanings and even root canals. Through our partnership with Great Shape! Inc. (a U.S. not-for-profit), we were able to set up a 21-operatory dental clinic at the National Cricket Stadium and smaller clinics at the Sandals Grenada (which graciously hosted our groups for free) and the adjacent island of Carriacou (which is also part of Grenada).

And while all the volunteers are super proud to have been able to help so many people, it’s their stories – their tiny miracles – that made the trip life-altering for those involved. Here are a few such stories.

Clara Zhou
U of T Dental, Graduating Class of 2024

Dental student Clara Zhou’s tiny miracle happened with her very first patient. And it brought her full-circle.

Clara Zhou (DDS3 Student) with her first and favourite patient

Clara Zhou (DDS3 Student) with her first and favourite patient

“A little boy was my first and favourite patient. I gave him a cleaning. He was an absolute pleasure to interact with. We talked about school and life. His family and mine. And at the end of the appointment, he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I want to be a dentist. You inspired me. You were so kind to me.’ And my heart just melted. It reminded me of why I went into dentistry: as a child, I had a lot of cavities (my immigrant parents weren’t well versed in oral health care) and my childhood involved lots of appointments to the paedo clinic at the hospital. I always appreciated what others did for me. And now, with this little boy, I saw myself and I was finally able to give back.”

Adam Tepperman
U of T Dental, Graduting Class of 2023

Dental student Adam Tepperman’s tiny miracle happened on his very first wisdom tooth extraction:

“It was my first time taking that tooth out. First time using those tools. And under the supervision of Dr. Sunny Sehgal, to my surprise, it actually went really well. A series of tiny miracles”.

But while he relished the accomplishment, he reflected on the bigger picture.

“I started to think about the patient. She made it through as well. She had a big source of infection removed. She can live life a little more normally. And that’s when everything stood out. As a dental professional, it’s easy to take your work for granted – only once in a blue moon would you do life-altering work. But here, in Grenada, with every patient we saw, everything we did was amplified because of their socio-economic background or lack of oral health care or education. We were providing tiny miracles for the masses.”

Dr. Amin Alibhai
Oral Surgeon, Ottawa

Kim Perlot (dental hygienist, dental therapist) with her teammate and oral Surgeon Dr. Amin Alibhai (a.k.a. just call me “Amin”).

Kim Perlot (dental hygienist, dental therapist) with her teammate and oral Surgeon Dr. Amin Alibhai (a.k.a. just call me “Amin”).

Dr. Amin Alibhai (or just “Amin” as he prefers to be called) is a real salt-of-the-Earth kind of guy. Extremely humble, but equipped with an amazing skillset. When pressed about what kind of tiny miracle he experienced in Grenada, he talked about his teammates’ complimentary skills, common goals and positive attitudes:

“I didn’t know who was going to assist me on this trip. So when I was teamed up with Kimmy – a hygienist and dental therapist out of Oregon – it was a tiny miracle. With her expanded dental skillset and go-getter attitude, we just clicked. We ran three dental chairs simultaneously, doing complex extractions for grateful patients. And when we were waiting for more extraction patients, we kept busy: I’d talk to fellow restorative dentists about patients they could refer over to us for extractions while Kimmy cleaned little kids’ teeth. Out of the two of us, Kimmy was the real rock star.”

Dr. Kosta Abate
GP, Toronto

Dr. Abate isn’t Grenadian, but she might as well be. Her love affair with Grenada led her to spend weeks there doing dental mission trips from 2012 to 2014 with NYU dental school (which included doing sealants on 14,000 children). Heck, before she arrived on the island, she already knew more than everyone else about Grenada (even the organizers)!

Dr. Kostantina Abate likes the CAD$12k Trihawk Bur Donation! Thank You Trihawk and Gustel Fischer!

Dr. Kostantina Abate likes the CAD$12k Trihawk Bur Donation! Thank You Trihawk and Gustel Fischer!

Dr. Abate’s miracle was evident for everyone at the clinic. It’s not what she saw; it’s what she did that others saw. It came down at the end to a 15-year-old girl. Her father, a janitor with limited means who worked at the National Cricket Stadium, brought her to our clinic when we were done and packing up until 2023. This beautiful little girl had been in pain for years and needed her upper front teeth treated immediately: deep carries in her 11, 12, 21, and 22 required 3 endos and 4 permanent fillings.

Per Dr. Abate: “It was a human tragedy. She was going to lose her upper teeth and end up with no front teeth from her teenage years”. But with our 3 week program ending, there was nothing we could do.

Until Dr. Abate’s miracle happened: “Screw it. We’re doing this. What’s 3 hours of my time for basically years of smiles for this little girl?” And with that, Dr. Abate came up with a plan to save this little girl’s smile. The plan involved us packing up a portable x-ray unit, gathering endo materials, and bringing an assistant (Len Liang) to Grenada’s chief dental surgeon’s (Dr. Julie Du Bois) dental clinic on a Saturday – i.e. Dr. Abate’s and Mr. Liang’s day off.

The result: nothing short of a miracle. A big, bright, beautiful smile on a teenage girl that will hopefully last with proper care.

PR Manager, Sandals Grenada Deleon Forrester (aka “Mother to All”) holding a patient’s baby so the patient can be seen

PR Manager, Sandals Grenada Deleon Forrester (aka “Mother to All”) holding a patient’s baby so the patient can be seen

Conclusion

If you haven’t done a dental mission trip, consider coming down to Grenada or other Caribbean islands with DMC and experience your own tiny miracles. And if you happen to go to Grenada during Jab Jab, be prepared to meet some devils – or better yet, play as one!


About the Author

Michael Carabash, BA, LLB, JD, MBA, CDPM is a founding partner of DMC LLP, Canada’s largest dental-only law firm that helps dentists sell and buy practices in Ontario. Michael leads DMC’s annual Caribbean dental mission trips (Grenada, Jamaica, and Turks) Michael is now organizing Sint Maarten and Philippines dental outreach trips for 2023. Michael can be reached at michael@dentistlawyers.ca or 647.680.9530.


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