Monthly Archives: June 2009

Reflections of the Dominican Republic trip

Now that I’ve been back at home and working in my regular environment, I have thought about my trip and shared my thoughts with some of my patients. So, here are some “Thoughts from the Chair” on my humanitarian effort:

The Experience:

Definitely this was one the best experiences of my life. Now, I have done many things and have travelled the world quite a bit and this one ranks right up there on the life scale. This was so rewarding on many levels. One of my patients said today, what I thought as I left  the ship and waited for my plane back to the states. It was this: To be able to have a profession that I can take anywhere with me and give that to others, really is an amazing sense of satisfaction. And to be able to help others that are in need that otherwise would have never been helped was a realization that is difficult to describe. I never dreamed of anything like this back in the schooling days. I really felt blessed to do what I do. I learned so much about the connection that we all have as humans on a planet. We really have no borders,  no language barriers, no class lines when we give and receive care that positively affects the lives and quality of life for others. The patients that I treated and interacted with were all so appreciative and happy to have us take care of them. 

In addition to that, I saw that all of us civilians and military people were connected by our desire to help these people.It was a ship of over 1,500 people that worked tirelessly and with conviction to make a difference in the world.  Our days started at 4:30 am and went as long as 9 pm. People were tired but never crabby or irascible. The interaction of the branches of military was impressive. Air Force, Navy, Army , Marines all came together, did their jobs -overlapping with each other- and did it well. They were impressive. The logistics of moving people on and off the ship everyday was a feat in itself. One day, the seas were too rough to bring people back on the tender boats. The commodore gave the order to Helo (helicopter) everyone back from the island. So, in two and a half hours, the Navy flew some two hundred people back aboard. It was an efficient and ordered process that was something most civilians never witness from our military. Working with them side by side for those ten days has made me very proud and respectful of our military.

The People:

The Dominican people live on an island that they share with an even more poor nation- Haiti. The stories and photos that my colleagues showed me of the Haiti mission was stirring. The disparity of classes in the Dominican itself was also stirring. One day,I was treating the poorest Dominicans who lived in a world that I have never witnessed and the next I was lecturing Dominican professionals such as myself separated only by our language. Seeing that degree of difference in classes from such a small area made me wonder. How and why?And the answer is, that there is no answer. It is merely the existence of mankind, as it has been since we’ve written our history and before.

The patients whom I treated were all very happy with being able to be treated by an American dentist. Many people in their 30’s and 40’s had never seen a dentist. So many people of all ages walk around with multiple abscesses in their mouth. The constant dull pain is an everyday endurance that is tolerated as some degree of normalcy. There were fathers and mothers bringing their children with hope and gratitude in their eyes. The kind that only a parent can know when they finally have found help for their children, knowing that their child will be relieved of their pain. Perhaps in treating the child, I have also relieved the pain and worry of their parents. 

In America, people walk in to the office with anxiety and some carry a loathing for my profession. They carry the double edged sword of needing treatment while not liking it. In my Dominican experience, people walked into the treatment area with a sense of relief that they were going to leave in better shape. And a gratitude knowing that their doctors made a journey from far away to help people they had never seen and may never see again. They know that the American doctors are the best in the world and feel fortunate to have their care. It was a very different experience for me. Not that all my patients dislike me- everyone likes me but not everyone likes what I do.

In the pictures below, this is a young man of 16 years. He chipped his two front teeth in an acccident soon after they came in at about 7 years old. So he’s had no choice but to live with his two front teeth in that condition. The teasing and ridicule he had endured over the years has affected his confidence and sense of self. When I look at his eyes in the before picture, I see a worried, shy, introverted look. After I showed him his new smile in the mirror, he had an instant transformation. He had a sense of calm and confidence. He knew he could smile without worry. Being able to help this young man change his outlook on life and see some confidence return was more rewarding than anything.  I may never see him again, but in know that I made a difference in a life.

chipped front teeth
chipped front teeth

89 smile after


Washing Cars for Hockey

Emma Schoenbeck and Carly Perrault washing cars

Emma Schoenbeck and Carly Perrault washing cars

On Saturday June 13th, 2009 we were at the Irving Gas station washing cars for the Berlin Girls Hockey fund raiser. That’s my daughter Emma washing a Jeep with an incredible defenseman Carly Perrault. Emma plays defense and a little offense on the wing. It was a great hockey season. The girls team won the championship of NH’s biggest girls tournament at Kimball Union Academy this last season. The event was a family and team effort. Parents and siblings of the hockey players all pitched in to wash cars and stand on the sidewalk to get the cars in. The most amusing thing was most of the cars that drove by were filthy and those that got cleaned weren’t that dirty!

scooping ice cream for Ed Fenn Elementary

dr2th and med ice creamWOW ! My arms hurt.

On Saturday June 6th I was at StoryLand scooping Ben and Jerry’s ice cream all afternoon. My friend Dr. Mederic Leblanc and I served over 400 cups of ice cream from 2pm till 5:30 pm. We had a lot of fun. It was a nice sunny day. We wore hawaiin shirts and made a lot of noise because we are- “two wild and crazy guys”!! We  yelled “dessert before dinner tonight!”  and “a buck a cup” to entice the ice cream lovers. Also, some people were very generous and gave more than the one dollar per cup we were asking. Wendy Beals and Pam Gralenski scooped in the morning. All of us have kids attending Ed Fenn Elementary. Ben and Jerry’s donated the ice cream and let our school keep all the proceeds.  Altogether Ed Fenn raised $630.50 not bad!  I calculated that Mederic and i scooped over one hundred servings per hour. No wonder my arms were sore! BTW- I ate only one cup, really, only one.

Dominican Republic April 29, 2009

Hello Everyone,

Going from 5 am till 10 pm every day.

These photos are of the attendees to my courses. I gave a two day seminar on CEREC to two groups. One was to some of the students and the dean of the best dental school in Dominican Republic. She is in the center second row, Dr. Johanna Nicholas de Diaz. The other was to the Director General of Medicine and Dentistry of the Dominican Republic’s military, Dr. Erick Nunez (seated next to me on my left) and his associates. He is a very well known dentist in the Dominican and is a real VIP. He and i got along well. He is very smart and learned the system quickly. 



As part of the educational program, I did two live patient demonstratiions of the CEREC system. One was an upper front tooth and the other was a lower molar. It all went very well. Dr Silverstein is an accomplished periodontist and presented on the subject of perio plastic surgery. I did learn that the navy way is to change on the fly. Mostly because there are so many channels to getting people on the ship, it takes time. 



As of yesterday, the dental team has had 733 dental care contacts since starting on Wednesday. That is all procedures that were provided- ext’s, scaling, restorative, OHI., etc. It is not the number of people as some people had two fillings and some had multiple extractions. The veterinarians beat us out with 788 contacts. I didn’t get the number of medical contacts. I will tell you though that the operating rooms on the ship start procedures at 6am and go through 5pm or so. They have a huge staff and have done a lot of surgeries.



All the Best,
Dr. Paul Schoenbeck

Dominican Republic April 28, 2009

Hello Everyone,

Hello Keep your steely eyes peeled on: Its the website for the military. I am on the USNS Comfort. there are many stories. They did a story on me about CEREC. Should be something on there tomorrow or next day. They have lots of dental photos on there. But none of me, I was giving the courses on the ship when they came to take pictures. They took some on Tuesday of me but i don’t know if they did anything with them.


All the Best,
Dr. Paul Schoenbeck

Dominican Republic April 27, 2009

Hello Everyone,

Here is a picture of me with the dental group and the other one is with the dental Captain Hartzell and Captain Ware. had a great day today. tired now but rewarding.











Dental team for DOM REP:

USN, USAF, USPHS, USNR, Canadian, and University of California San Diego (UCSD) affiliated civilian dentists, UCSD pre-med and pre-dent students, Harvard pre-med student, acupuncturist, and NOVA Southeastern University Medical Students.












From left to right:

CDR David  H. Hartzell: Senior Dental Officer, USNS COMFORTDr. Paul C. Schoenbeck: Certified CEREC Trainer, North Country Dental


All the Best,
Dr. Paul Schoenbeck

Dominican Republic April 26, 2009

Hello Everyone,

Having a great time here in the Dominican Republic. I have been very busy on the largest hospital ship in the world (it has a twin ship though) it’s the USNS Comfort. I am here to train the Navy and a Dominican Republic dental school and the Domincan government’s Chief of Med/Dent on the CEREC technology. I am also in the field hospital working on the Dominicans.

Today we saw 92 patients in our dental unit. I did 13 fillings, one scaling/debridement. We had four dentists working, one was triaging the patients. We also had two Dominican dentists who did extractions. So the stats for today, 92 exams, 35 prophy’s , 4 OHI’s, 33 fluoride treatments, 31 restorations, 38 extractions.

The operation is the biggest humanitarian effort going on. It is a four month mission in the Carribean. Our group is dentists, physicians, veterinarians, pharmacists, optometrists, engineers, and others in the healthcare fields. As of today in the Dominican Republic, we had over 40,000 healthcare encounters, 10,000 patient encounters, 1000 animal treatments. The Navy, Army, Airforce are here. This is the second stop. The first was Haiti. The next will be Antigua. i am here just for the Dominican mission. I will leave on the 30th of April.  

I am working at the sports complex that was built for the 2003 Pan-Am games. The complex is dilapidated after only 5 years. There is trash everywhere. I am serving four days there. Tomorrow ast. Then I have presentations to do on the ship.

I take a helicopter or boat from the ship to shore at 6:00 am. We set up the equipment, field hospital stuff- bare bones. Then start with the patients. We have a lunch of military rations called MRE’s, which stands for “meals rejected by ethiopeans” but they are in fact very good. Then after treating the patients we break down and put away the stuff, get back to the ship, have dinner, a couple of meetings to go over the day and the next day’s activities. Then I have been doing one on one training with the Navy dentists on the CEREC till late at night. I hit the sack very tired around midnight or 1am, get up at five and do it again!! hoo-ha (that’s an army thing). 
The people start lining up in front of the complex around 3-4 in the morning I am told. we can’t see everyone , so they keep coming back every day. Every day the line gets longer and longer. There is no running water in the complex. There are no bathroom facilities either. They have four porta-potties in front, but that’s all and i don’t want to even look inside them. Attached is a photo of part of the lineup from Saturday. The people are fascinated by the operation. people hang around, there are some people peddling drinks, beaded necklaces, candy, popsicles. The helicopter landing zone is on the soccer field. People sit in the stands to watch and during the day they are staring at us through the windows as we work. Kids run off with our trash bags to dig through them for anything. Its a real experience. Most of the people I see have never seen a dentist. Some that have, have seen the dentist through other humanitarian efforts or at the dental schools. Santo Domingo is where I am. There are four million people here.

Well, I will write more later. My only free time is late at night. Hope all is well in your part of the world. I know I can’t save the world, but I can try just one tooth at a time. Thanks for reading.

All the Best,
Dr. Paul Schoenbeck