Just before the holidays, Dr. Nick Porcello packed his bags and left the 40-degree gray weather of the Allegany and Olean area to travel to 80-degree temperatures found in the Dominican Republic.
The Allegany dentist of Valley View Dental was not on vacation. The trip was meant to help poor adults in Santo Domingo receive dental implants to replace missing teeth and in turn, improve their health and outlook on life. Porcello said the program also provided a “learning experience” that immersed him in knowledge and work.
“This was one of the best educational experiences available,” Porcello said of the hands-on program conducted by the Trinon Collegium Practicum, a world-renowned implant course taught 12 times a year around the world.
“I figured getting out of Western New York in December and attending their Dominican Republic course would be closest and most practical,” Porcello said. He noted he has been placing dental implants in different forms in patients for about five years, but decided it was time to up his game.
Porcello said he had traveled to a village in Honduras in 2001 and several successive years afterward to help patients in a primitive community that initially had no water or electricity. That work basically entailed pulling teeth.
Porcello said his trip to Santo Domingo was more organized and structured as a class. When he arrived at the Holiday Inn in Santo Domingo, he met the rest of the group comprising 30 dentists. He said 20 were from the United States, six were from Europe and a couple were from Canada.
Porcello said the dental clinic he worked in was spartan but clean, and he and his partner immediately got to work. Porcello noted he is able to speak basic Spanish and was able to explain the procedure to his first patient.
“She was very eager and ready to begin,” he recalled.
Porcello said the clinic was not as technically advanced as his office in Allegany, requiring him to estimate the depth of the nerves in the patients’ mouths with a regular X-ray.
“It works well in most cases, but in the U.S. we are fortunate that we have such amazing technology so that we can be much more precise with our planning,” he said.
“The rest of the week went very much like this,” he recounted. “We saw patient after patient and placed as many as eight implants on a single patient in a single morning. Our patients were brought back to us by the very competent dental assistants.”
Of the trip, Porcello said he would “love to go again — I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it, having not gone for a few years.”
He said one of the best things about the program is the appreciation shown by the patients.
“It gives you a nice, good feeling,” he said.
Porcello said his wife, Brandi, was very understanding of the time and money required to make the trip to help the poor of that country. On top of that, he had to travel in early December prior to holidays, leaving her and their two small daughters for over a week.
“I was trying to get all the Christmas stuff done before Christmas,” he added.
For her part, Brandi Porcello said she is impressed by her husband’s pursuit of furthering his education through the humanitarian program.
“I could see an increase in his confidence in taking on these difficult cases, and because of this, his stress level has decreased since coming back from the Dominican Republic,” Brandi Porcello said of her husband.
She also has witnessed “how happy and invigorated he is from helping people when he gets back.”
“I am encouraging more trips in the future even though my daughters and I missed him,” Brandi Porcello admitted. “Hopefully my daughters and I can go on one of these trips in the future and experience first-hand the rewards of helping people.”
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)