A journey that started almost a year ago came to completion Sept. 19 when two Red Cross volunteers finished their training with the 56th Dental Squadron.
“The two Red Cross volunteers, Alexandra Chopek and Lupe Dorantes, have been an integral part of the 56th DS team,” said Capt. Elizabeth McCourt, 56th DS dentist.
Their journey started in December of 2012 when the Red Cross sent out a message through their website seeking volunteers.
“I submitted my paperwork in December,” Dorantes said. “In January I had an interview and I was accepted. I have seen this program before and wanted to participate. I asked about it when we first moved to Luke but it wasn’t available. So when I saw the email from the Airmen and Family Readiness Center I signed up.”
The volunteer opportunity put them in the Luke dental clinic for 1,000 hours of chair-side training.
“The volunteers began learning the basics of assisting in restorative dentistry, or fillings,” McCourt said. “Once this skill was mastered they moved on to more in-depth procedures in specialties such as periodontics, oral surgery, endodontics and prosthodontics.”
The program was designed to prepare people for entry-level dental assisting positions.
“This was a great opportunity for me,” Dorantes said. “I learned so much. After I take my x-ray exam later and I pass I will be able to get a job working at a dentist office. Being a military wife this kind of job is good because no matter where we go there will be a dental office, in the states or overseas.”
Being a dental assistant means Dorantes learned to set up before a dental procedure and take down after.
“The hardest part for me was learning all the dental tools,” Dorantes said. “Every single instrument has a different name and we had to learn them all in order to give the dentist the right tool. But by the end it was easy, I had it down.”
During the time the volunteers were at the dental clinic their help and didn’t go unnoticed.
“The 56th Dental Squadron itself has also greatly benefited from their hard work and dedication and we want to thank them for all their selfless contributions to Luke’s mission,” McCourt said. “In a time when assistant manning has been low, the two volunteers frequently acted as full time assistants contributing to the productivity and efficacy of the clinic as a whole. During the eight-month program, both volunteers played a fundamental role in treating more than 1,600 patients.”
Because this one went so well the dental clinic is planning on doing the Red Cross dental volunteer program again in 2014.
“I would recommend to any at-home spouse that this is a great opportunity,” Dorantes said. “This is a free program, I say go for it. This kind of thing in the civilian world is very expensive. Every mother or at-home military wife who is wondering what to do, this can pay off better than working at a restaurant.”
If interested in the Red Cross dental volunteer program, contact Master Sgt. Mary Williams at 623-856-1130.