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A Journey to Stebbins, Alaska: Providing Dental Care in a Remote Native Alaskan Village

A Journey to Stebbins, Alaska: Providing Dental Care in a Remote Native Alaskan Village

A Journey to Stebbins, Alaska: Providing Dental Care in a Remote Native Alaskan Village

In the heart of Alaska, where the wilderness meets the Bering Sea, lies the remote village of Stebbins. Home to less than 600 people, this Native Alaskan community is only accessible by plane, creating a unique and isolated environment. Recently, Dr. Carrie Wanamaker, one of our pediatric dentists here at Inspire Dental Group, embarked on a transformative journey to Stebbins, Alaska, where she worked alongside a dedicated team to provide essential dental care to the village’s children. In this blog post, we delve i

nto Dr. Wanamaker’s experience, exploring the challenges, rewards, and the profound impact of delivering healthcare in a community with limited access.

The Team and the Journey:

Dr. Wanamaker traveled to Stebbins with another pediatric dentist, Dr. Christine Roalofs, an independent contractor for Norton Sound Health Corporation. This colleague, a UB Pediatric Residency Grad, has been visiting various Alaskan villages for several years, providing dental care for a week at a time. Having recently moved to Wisconsin, she plans to retire from these visits soon but remains committed to making a difference. Notably, she even has her own dog sled team, showcasing the unique and adventurous spirit of those providing care in Alaska.

The Village and Its People:

Stebbins, with its 248 children, primarily saw patients in third grade and under during Dr. Wanamaker’s visit. The village faces significant challenges, characterized by high poverty and limited access to healthcare. Running water is a luxury, only available in the health clinic, school, and washeteria. For many of these Native Alaskans, dental care is a rarity, with visits from dentists occurring only once a year. Dr. Wanamaker and her colleague performed various procedures, including extractions, and made use of nitrous for pediatric patients. All of this took place within the confines of the health clinic, highlighting the logistical challenges of providing care in such a remote location.

The Inspiration Behind the Trip:

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Dr. Wanamaker discovered this opportunity through her connections in Anchorage, where she met her colleague, who had been conducting these trips for years. Driven by a desire to make a difference and provide care where it’s not easily accessible, she decided to join the mission to Stebbins.

The Rewards and Challenges:

The most rewarding aspect of the journey, according to Dr. Wanamaker, was the opportunity to connect with the children on a personal level. Beyond dental work, she spent time engaging with them, whether it was painting their nails or sharing stories. The challenge, however, lay in the limitations of what they could accomplish. While they could perform some treatments, the constraints of resources and time meant not every patient could receive the full range of necessary care.

Lessons Learned and Future Goals:

Reflecting on her experience, Dr. Wanamaker emphasizes the importance of not taking anything for granted. In Stebbins, simple tasks we often take for granted, like running to the store or ordering online, are not options. This realization serves as a powerful reminder of the privileges we often overlook.

Looking to the future, Dr. Wanamaker has a personal and career goal inspired by her time in Stebbins. She aspires to adopt the village and commit to providing dental care to the same families for one week every year, furthering the impact of her initial visit.

Dr. Carrie Wanamaker’s journey to Stebbins, Alaska, offers a glimpse into the challenges and rewards of providing healthcare in a remote Native Alaskan village. As we celebrate her commitment to making a difference, let her experience serve as a reminder of the transformative power of healthcare professionals who go above and beyond to reach those in need.

To learn more about Dr. Wanamaker click the link below!