Longtime dental assistant Rebecca Trimarchi, CDA, (above center) of Brewster, New York, has a passion for helping patients not only locally, but also around the world.
Recently, she traveled to the jungle of the Peruvian Amazon as part of a dental mission trip with Healing the Children Northeast, a volunteer organization dedicated to providing donated medical and dental care to children in need in the United States and around the world.
While this October 2019 trip was Trimarchi’s third mission to the Amazon jungle with the organization, she’s been traveling the globe on dental mission trips with Healing the Children Northeast for approximately 13 years.
At the beginning
It all started around 2006, when Trimarchi began working for her current employer, Robert Arbuckle, D.D.S., at Wilton Dental Care. She was encouraged then by the dentist to join him on the trips. As a dental assistant who considers herself to have a knack for organization and helping people, Trimarchi was immediately hooked on the idea of volunteering in this capacity.
“When I started with this office in 2006, the doctor was leaving for Cambodia,” she recalls. “I was unable to go on that trip, but I joined the next trip the following year to Madagascar — that was my first time ever on a dental mission, and out of the country, halfway around the world.”
Growing up in central Maine, before becoming a global dental volunteer, Trimarchi didn’t consider herself to be a world traveler. “I had been to Canada before, but didn’t consider that another country because I grew up so close to it,” she says with a laugh. Now, Trimarchi can say her dental work has taken her around the world to numerous locations, such as Morocco, Guatemala, Brazil, Belize and Cape Verde.
A typical trip
Trimarchi says a Healing the Children trip typically draws a core group of approximately 10 to 12 dental professionals, including dentists (team leader Gregory Keiser, D.M.D., among them), assistants, hygienists and photographers, as well as translators. In addition to assisting the doctors on location, Trimarchi’s key role on the team is procuring and preparing supplies to bring on the missions.
“Every year, I work tirelessly trying to get donations for supplies and equipment,” she explains. “I pack most of the bags and get everything all set, making sure we have everything we need to go on the trip. Every last little thing is packed and taken with you to these locations — from portable dental units to cotton rolls, as supplies would be very hard to procure in most locations.”
Trips typically last 10 days, door-to-door; during that time, “we are helping impoverished people, sometimes in remote areas,” Trimarchi continues. “We have worked in churches, school gymnasiums and outdoor pop-up clinics, seeing patients.” During this most recent trip, the volunteer team worked in the newly renovated Esperanza Medical Clinic, accessible only by boat.
The number of patients treated — with cleanings, fillings and extractions — typically depends on the location and its population size, Trimarchi notes. For example, in Morocco, in conjunction with other dental professionals, the team helped to treat almost 1,000 children in four days. “But the Peruvian jungle is very, very remote, only accessible by boat,” she says, so comparatively, the reach there is smaller. “This year, we treated just under 300 patients, but in the past, we’ve treated about 350 to 400. That’s a lot of people for a remote location.”
When the team makes repeat visits to certain locations, they’re typically pleased to find returning patients with improved oral health. “We’ve seen the impact we’ve made,” Trimarchi says.
Next up for Trimarchi and the team? Traveling to Ecuador, a new location, in October 2020.
“I’m really hooked on these experiences,” says Trimarchi. “They’re something I very much cherish and look forward to every year.”
To learn more about Healing the Children Northeast, visit htcne.org.