Dentists at Gardez welcome first, only clinical adviser

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sarah Martinez
  • Air Force Regional Support Command-East/NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan Public Affairs
 At Paktia Regional Military Hospital at Gardez three Afghan dental workers are very excited about receiving their first adviser.

Maj. Courtney Schapira is part of the Medical Embedded Training Team at Forward Operating Base Lightning. The team is made up of a variety of medical advisoes for the different areas of the hospital like optometry and nursing, but Schapira is the first to help out the dental clinic.

"When we heard we were getting an adviser, we got very excited," said Dost Muhammad, the head dentist. "We are ready for her to help us and teach us what she knows."

The dental clinic at the hospital receives about 20 patients a day. The most common things the dentists treat are acute pain, cavities and inflammation of the nerves.

"When I first got here, it was overwhelming," Shapira said. "I saw so many things that I could make better. However, I have to remember to start simply and first lay the foundation that they can build upon after I'm gone."

Schapira said her top priority for the dental clinic is organizing their supply closet. She wants to know what they have and what they don't have so she can put in a request to order the things they need.

"Right now my main concern is bringing them into modern-age dentistry," said Schapira. "So, I have to help them get the supplies and equipment they need to be able to do that."

Currently, Schapira and Nasir, the dental assistant, are working together to tackle the supply room. The room is full of boxes, some labeled and some not but no matter the disarray, the two are determined to divide and conquer.

"Nasir is very eager to learn," Schapira said. "This is really Nasir's clinic to run. The dentists just come in and work here. I want him to take ownership and know where and what everything is so that he can maintain it long after I leave."

After the supply room is organized, Schapira said she will be able to move on to her next big goal; infection control.
"Once I get through the supply closet, I'll know what instruments they have so that I can throw away all the broken and dirty ones," Schapira said.  

Schapira has six months to help her Afghan counterparts at the dental clinic but she hopes they will get another adviser when she leaves.

"She is the first adviser, but I hope that when her time is done we get another one," said Jant, da entist and the owner of a private dental clinic. "We need her to help us, especially with supplies and training."

With 2012 rapidly approaching, the dentists at Paktia Regional Military Hospital have a little more than two years to be able to stand on their own two feet and gain all the knowledge they can from advisers like Schapira.