January 16, 2019


ICD Fellow, Dr. Stephen Palatinus recently had the opportunity to participate in delivering care to the underserved in the Dominican Republic.   A large group of students and faculty from the Midwestern University Dental School Illinois, in conjunction with the Delta Sigma Delta fraternity worked with Bright Island Outreach (BIO).  BIO was founded in 2012 by two dentists, Drs. Eric Harris and Johnathan Diaz Nicolas with a similar passion of providing free dental care to underprivileged communities.  Currently, over 5000 people in ten communities have been treated by 500 volunteers.

While he was there, approximately 500 people were seen at an open air facility and at a school for students in grades 7-9.  During the outreach they were able to collaborate with another group of students and dentists from the Dominican Republic, socialize, and learn a little about the Dominican culture. During the time there, the group provided 546 restorations, 278 extractions, 10 root canals, 126 sealants, 221 scalings and, with the aid of a local lab technician, delivered 44 removable appliances.

This was Steve’s first mission trip outside the United States and it exposed him to several new experiences.  While members of Delta Sigma Delta shared many past experiences and photos of previous trips, being there moved his appreciation of the need to another level.  Once they arrived at the site located at Rancho Baiguate, the group came together almost immediately and the faculty and students began mentoring each other in an open and collaborative manner.  The BIO team had created an efficient system of designated treatment areas, operatory set up, breakdown, instrument management including distribution, return, and sterilization.  Portable suction was available on a limited basis, primarily for endodontic procedures. Disposable cups provided for expectorating were utilized during other procedures.  Some challenges were encountered working in an open air environment including heat which was managed with fans and the breeze that came through every so often.  The weather on their second day provided some excitement as they were hit with heavy rain and wind that put a halt to most procedures for about 20 minutes. Compressors had to be relocated and equipment protected.  Due to the good management and organization the clinic was soon back up and running as though nothing had happened.  As with many outreach efforts patient positioning can be a challenge. On this mission, it was accomplished with lawn chairs and head rests.  While it was disheartening for him to see the extent of dental disease, especially the number of missing permanent first molars in young people, it was rewarding to be able to eliminate pain and restore dental health for many.  Without exception, the patients were very appreciative of the care they received.

“One of the greatest gifts we have as dentists,” says Dr. Palatinus “is our ability to give back. Underserved populations can be found throughout the world and many volunteer both here and abroad.   I believe volunteering is contagious and needs to continue to spread rapidly through as many channels as possible.  I feel fortunate to have participated with Delta Sigma Delta, the students and faculty of Midwestern University, colleagues from the Dominican Republic and the Bright Island Outreach organization. “

Dr. Stephen Palatinus graduated from the University of Illinois dental school in 1990.  Most of his career was spent in private practice.  During that time he participated in several volunteer events including Missions of Mercy, Cure Network, Illinois Dentists Salute to Veterans and others.  During the last six years he’s volunteered and served as one of the board members of the Chicago Dental Society’s Foundation Clinic whose mission is to provide free dental care for the working poor. After selling his private practice he has been teaching at Midwestern University in Illinois where he currently serves as Clinical Care Coordinator.  Recently Steve completed his master’s degree in public health from Benedictine University. 

Featured Image: Dr. Steve Palatinus and Dr. Larry Smith treat a patient in the mission dental clinic.

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