Christine Nguyen

Where did you serve? 

Zapallal and Arimae, Panama are communities about 5 hours away from Panama City. Our temporary clinic was set up at a high school in Zapallal so we had many students come by for a check-up as well as the indigenous population from Arimae.


Were there any moments of culture shock that really stood out? 

One of the hardest adjustments for me was not being able to drink the tap water. Because of the possibility of parasites in the water, we had to use our own water bottles when we wanted to brush our teeth. When children came through our clinic, they were given anti-parasitic medicine because unpurified water is the only kind they have access to. It made me so much more appreciative of my life at home. I have definitely started taking shorter showers too in an effort to conserve water.


What organization did you serve with? Does it have a UCLA connection?

I went on this trip with Global Dental Brigades. GDB is one discipline of the non-profit organization Global Brigades. UCLA is currently the only campus with branches of all 9 of Global Brigades’ disciplines including Public Health, Environmental, Business, and Water.


Why did you choose this organization and location?

I had heard about Brigades from a close friend who had gone to Ghana. It was not the location, but rather the idea of setting up temporary relief for communities that normally have extremely limited access to health professional that drew me to volunteering on this week-long trip. Global Dental Brigades allows volunteers to shadow dentists and see both urgent and preventative dental procedures.


What lessons have you learned from your volunteer experience?

As a non-profit, Global Dental Brigades always puts the patients first. I have met so many genuinely caring health professionals who love what they do, which has really inspired me to be passionate about my career choice and how I want to treat my patients. There is a huge difference in how the American health system works compared to rural communities in terms of resources and convenience of lifestyle, but in the end, the goal is the same–to care for the health of others. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity and would attend another brigade in a heartbeat.

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The More You Know

Country Served Panama
Average Amount of Water Used during a Shower in the US 16.6 gallons
Service Organization Global Medical Brigades at UCLA
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