A dental quest among the Lakota

A little-known but admirable outreach program for dentists, hygienists and dental students is the St. Francis Mission Among The Lakota Dental Clinic in South Dakota. Situated just inside the western border of the Rosebud Indian Reservation, the clinic offers free dental care to the Lakota people. For nine years, the clinic has been serving those in high need of dental care.

When I started dental school at the University at Buffalo, my father and I made a pact that we would do an outreach trip together if we got the opportunity. My father, Dr. Michael Romano, is a general dentist in Liverpool, New York, and a 1985 graduate of UBSDM. Toward the end of my third year, my father read an article about the dental clinic at Rosebud Indian Reservation in the American Dental Association monthly newspaper. It seemed like the perfect opportunity since the clinic is run solely by volunteer dentists across the country.

Buffalo delivers ‘good news to the poor’ in Sierra Leone

I recall the day after I returned from a week-long dental mission trip in Sierra Leone, a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. I was walking to work in New York City. For a moment, it felt like I’d never been to Kono, a district in Sierra Leone’s war-torn eastern province. I’m living in a city with tons of restaurants and bakeries around me. I’ve never worried about having enough water or electricity becoming a luxury product.

But I was there, along with a faculty member, an assistant and five classmates from Buffalo. We left behind our love, hope and positive energies to the locals of Kono.

How my childhood influenced my need to pay it forward

I grew up on an acre of land with fruit trees, a massive vegetable garden and just a few animals to care for. While it may sound like I grew up with a luxury many lack, the reality is that my family of 14 was hardly scraping by. We used public help services from time to time, although my parent’s philosophy was to “only take what you need.”