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A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Fall 2008





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Michael Adsit

Michael Adsit

Rewards outweigh risks for dentist volunteering in Third World

Story by David Dorsey

In the middle of Michael Adsit’s dental clinic sit a washer and dryer, unplugged, unvented—as if they’ve just dropped through the roof. Clearly, he hasn’t quite settled in, though he’s been practicing here in Newark, NY, for a year. Yet, while other dentists his age might obsess about paying bills—and hook up the appliances for washing scrubs—he’s been flying to both Africa and Central America every year to treat the underprivileged.

Adsit close-up

Highest achievement as a musician a recital of Bach on the organ at the Eastman Theatre; First job parking cars at a Boonville, NY, lumberjack competition; Least favorite dental work extractions; Honors American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Award and Richard A. Powell Award for outstanding service, achievement and dedication to the UB School of Dental Medicine in 2005

He doesn’t think of himself as a hero. He has his limits. For example, when the 29-year-old Adsit, DDS ’05, wanted to volunteer his talents in Africa, he called someone who’d worked in Ghana. It was all encouraging, until one final, throwaway warning: “Just remember. The person who’s carrying the gun is the one who’s in charge.”

OK. Change of plans. He decided to head back to Central America where he’d already volunteered during spring breaks at UB. But after a talk with Renzo Nylander, DDS ’73, a UB dental school faculty member, he booked a flight to Ghana. He’s glad he did. It was brutally hot and exhausting, but hundreds of people found relief as he trekked from village to village offering help. He unfolded his Wal-Mart camping chair, his patients sank into it and, one after another, they learned, for the first time, what it meant to open wide. “It was parachute dentistry,” he says. “Pull teeth. Treat infection. Move on.” On a subsequent trip to Honduras, Adsit saw fluoride being used and decided to bring the rinse to Ghana. It’s fast, inexpensive and the effects are lasting. “You can help many more people that way.”

Though he has yet to run into the proverbial man with the gun, he’s shown great courage. He endures heat and privation in Africa, and in Honduras he braves armies of fleas and the reduviid bug, whose bite deposits a parasite that can lead to heart failure later in life. He laughs at the risks, though, because he loves volunteering. It’s about the people he meets. “Here in the States, a lot of times you wave at someone and they think you must be waving at somebody else. Over there, everybody waves back,” he says. “They are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. And yet they are happy.”

UB in the News

Gum infections may increase risk for digestive tract sores

A Reuters article about a study that showed that gum infections may increase people?s risk for sores in the digestive tract that can lead to stomach cancer quotes Jean Wactawski-Wende , dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The first woman to swim the English Channel

An article on Outside magazine interviews Susan Cahn , professor of history about Gertrude Ederle, who in 1926 became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Ceremony for new home of Jacobs School to be held Tuesday

An article on the front page of the Buffalo News reports on the new downtown home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and quotes Michael Cain , vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

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