Educational, personal, and cultural attributes of dental students' humanitarian trips to Latin America

Enrique Bimstein, Quinton W. Gardner, Joseph L. Riley, Robert W. Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This article evaluates the educational, personal, and cultural attributes that motivate or inhibit dental students' participation in humanitarian and educational trips to underserved communities in Latin America. Interviews, concentrating on students' expectations and experiences, were conducted with students who participated in the trips and with those who did not. A survey of a larger group of students (including those interviewed) was also conducted; the survey included demographic data, ethnic affiliation, cultural competence, motivators and inhibitors to attend trips, and trip attributes. One hundred and seventy-four students at one dental school completed the survey; the group interviews were conducted with twenty-three students who attended humanitarian and educational trips and nine students who did not. This research found that skill development, educational opportunity, and philanthropy were the most important motivators for trip participation. Cost and time commitments were the strongest inhibitors to participate. Exposure to infectious diseases, substandard working and living conditions, threat of crime, and language barriers were mostly considered as "not important." However, female dental students were more concerned than males about crime, living conditions, and infectious diseases during the trips. Cultural education, increased knowledge, cross-cultural professional relationships, increased self-confidence, and public health awareness were the most important attributes of the trips. This study indicates that the undergraduate humanitarian educational trips to underserved Latin American communities have a most significant personal, professional, and social impact on dental students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1493-1509
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008


  • Cultural competence
  • Dental education
  • International humanitarian trips

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Dentistry(all)


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