The Guatemala initiative started in the spring of 2016. This initiative offers dental students the opportunity to provide dental care, oral health care education, and community service to natives living in Chichicastenango, learn about the dental education system in Guatemala City, and immerse themselves in the Guatemalan culture.

Dental students and an adjunct faculty member travel for approximately two weeks to various locations throughout Guatemala. They first head to Chichicastenango and stay at Monte Flor, a local missionary campus established by an American group, Manos de Jesus. Here, they work in a fully operational dental clinic and provide dental care to local residents who typically do not have access to care, provide oral health care education to children in the community. Students also have the opportunity to engage in additional community service projects through the mission, such as building a house for a widow or serving at an after-school feeding programs for kids.

Throughout the experience, students have many experiences to learn about Guatemalan culture. In Chichicastenango, they visit the largest open market in Central America. After leaving Chichi, students travel for a few days, visiting places like Antigua and Lake Atitlan to try local foods and see some of Guatemala’s beautiful mountains, lakes and cities. Following this, students spend time at the dental school located in Guatemala City, and spend time with local dental students to learn about their education system and foster collaboration efforts for community care.


For 12 days in 2018, four dental students, Amanda Robertson, Joe Sheena, Khalil Abdallah, Sergio Calleja, and one dental hygiene student, Alice Ou, traveled with Dr. Steven Niergarth and his wife Lisa Niergarth to Guatemala. During the trip, the students provided oral health education, screenings for children from the local schools, and dental treatment for those students, as well as other members of the community in Chichicastenango. The students also visited the the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala in Guatemala City, where they met with dental students and faculty to learn more about dental education in Guatemala and create a network for collaboration between our two universities for coordinated community service efforts in the future. The students were also able to visit popular local sites, such as Lake Atitlan and Antigua and even go zip lining the mountains! Overall, it was an extraordinary trip full of new cultural, educational, and clinical experiences.

The amazing view from Cerro San Cristobal of the nearby volcano.

The the team was able to spend some time exploring Antigua and viewed the famous Santa Catalina Arch.

The view of Lake Atitlan on the way to Antigua.

The overlook of Lake Atitlan before reaching the city.

The team posing in front of the shoe factory at Monte Flor. Catching some moments of sun and showing that U of M pride!

Guatemalan dental student Magda Sosa teaching children about fluoride use as part of her outreach obligations.

Joe Sheena and Sergio Calleja with the students of Santo Tomás de Quiché after learning about the benefits of fluoride.

A staff member of the Manos de Jesus shoe factory demonstrating their amazing work.

A family waits their turn for dental care while having a snack at Monte Flor.

Alice and Khalil share smiles with a thankful patient.

Dr. Niergarth, Amanda and Sergio take a moment to document one of the thankful patients treated at Monte Flor.

Joe lending Amanda a hand in clinic, while Dr. Niergarth oversees the procedure.

All smiles while the team takes a break during the visit of the dental school at Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

Getting ready to go Ziplining at The Canopy at Tendedor del Cerro, known as Circo del Aire. There were 12 cables in total and the last line was known as the Superman because you are positioned horizontally during the flight.

Khalil performing a dental screening, while Amanda helps with documentation.

Sergio and Alice demonstrate how to brush properly to an engaged student.

A hand painted mural on the wall of the dental school showcasing important milestones for their school.