Back to Alaska!

Town of Sand Point with snow capped mountains across the bay

Hi lower 48er’s
I signed up months ago to return to work in Alaska, this time on Popof Island in the Aleutians, in the town of Sand Point, for a 3 week stint. It’s rather remote, cold, windy and grey most days but the people are nice and they only get a dentist every few months, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. 
It’s always a pleasure to work with Shonna, a recently certified DHAT, or dental health aid therapist, which is a mid level dental position between a hygienist and a dentist that can do fillings and extractions among other dental assisting and hygiene procedures. Alaska is the only state in the country that trains DHATs, and currently there are only 5 states that recognize their training, so it’s an emerging position to help staff underserved areas, often where dentists are scarce. A lot of the donated dental supplies I brought will go in Shonna’s traveling dental bin as she covers the 7 clinics in the Aleutian Islands, so she’s a happy camper.

      In preparation to help pass the time, I offered to bring Pickleball to Sand Point, and the principal of the school said “OK” after I explained to her what the sport was all about. Through Amazon I ordered a portable net, balls and tape to mark out a court on the gym floor, and they promptly shipped it to the clinic I’m working at. Next I asked the folks that run the Pikes Peak Pickleball Assn. in Colorado Springs, which is approaching 1000 members,  if they would place a notice in the weekly email about my plans, and that I was hoping to get some used paddles for the community. The response was great and I packed up 16 paddles along with donated dental supplies from my friends in the industry to take as baggage.
        I had a blast being able to introduce pickleball to the local high school kids for their afternoon gym classes all last week, and they seemed to enjoy having a new sport to help burn off some energy, or maybe that was just the sentiment of their coach Dave. The equipment was left for their use in the future, so don’t be surprised when you see their players in the Olympic tryouts in a few years.

         I’ve done a bit of hiking and made it out to Sand Dollar beach the other day after having to choose between a deep muddy ATV trail or a wet swampy marsh. I tried the mud route first but gave up after 20 minutes of slogging, and switched to the watery route which was wetter but cleaner, and my boots are almost dry for another hike today.  In between the usual rain and gale force winds, the sun appeared a few times this past weekend. We even got some snow and ice, but fortunately missed the 7.0 earthquake that rocked Anchorage last week since we’re 800 miles away. The tsunami warning was a bust too, so I’ll have to wait for another chance to experience an apocalyptic event in the “Be careful what you wish for” category for 150 points.    

           Thanksgiving was shared with some generous neighbors that invited me over to their apartment for a feast, and I cooked chicken Parmesan for them one night to return the favor. Then they raised the bar even more by inviting me over for a King Crab feast last Friday, and it was hands down the best crab I’ve ever eaten, with chunks the size of brats. There was so much that there were leftovers for crab cakes the next night, so I’ve definitely been spoiled and will have a hard time nibbling the puny specimens we get back home.

     Lastly one of my generous dental manufacturing contacts wrote me that I’m in their 2019 catalogue standing at the South Pole, so my 15 minutes of fame has been activated. I’m still waiting for the lucrative product endorsements to come calling, and I’ll invite you on the Gulfstream G650ER when my order is filled, but don’t hold your breath on that for now.

      I’ll be heading back home to CO at the end of the week, Hope you and your families have a reason to celebrate!

Cheers,

Bering Sea Bob

Donated dental and pickleball paddles

High school kids at Sand Point playing pickleball

Showing off their paddles at the net

Trident cannery at Sand Point

Two wind turbines can supply 60% of the electricity for the town of 900

Grocery freighter from Seattle coming to Sand Point

King Crab feast at my neighbor’s apartment

Shonna, the Dental Health Aid Therapist happy with her new cordless curing light

Hike to Danger Point, looking down on Sand Dollar beach

Inside page of Garrison dental catalogue

Bald eagle in Sand Point

 

 

 

AK Eagles and Bears

Greetings lower 48er’s

       After only 6 months of paperwork and enough application fees to send board members to a nice conference in the Bahamas, I was granted a dental license for Alaska. Then I got to repeat most of it again to get credentialed for the Eastern Aleutian Tribes so I could join Lynn working in a clinic in a remote part of Alaska where the grizzlies roam free. It all worked out in time for me to get a 2 week contract in June, and the final sea skimming 10 minute flight aboard a 5 seat airplane deposited me in King Cove to experience life in a commercial fishing town of 800.

We had a lovely apartment 100 yards from the modern medical and dental clinic, and were fortunate enough to have folks give us some fresh halibut and king crab to enjoy the local flavors for home cooked meals. I oriented and worked with Mike the dentist and his wife Gaby, who cover the seven dental clinics spread along the length of the Aleutian Islands, sometimes with the help of newly trained dental health aids. He flew off after a few days to another island to take care of a root canal and left me to take care of the dental needs of the locals, and with Gaby’s help it all worked out.

Lynn stayed busy with the medical side of things, and after work and on the weekends we ventured out on a number of hikes in the surrounding hills and mountains. The locals recommended guns for the bears, but bear spray was easy enough to carry and the bears we saw were always running away. The rest of the wildlife, including eagles, fox and otters were less of a concern, and the scenery of snow capped peaks and windswept waves on the ocean were always an inspiration to enjoy the outdoors.

We finished up with a few vacation days in Sitka, where I got humbled on the pickleball court one afternoon and we hiked a calf searing trail with friends the next morning. All in all a great experience in the far north, and I’ll probably return to work there again sometime.

Hope your summer is going well and the bears keep running away.

Cheers,

Bear spray toting Bob

Balancing the weight by loading the nose of the 5 seat airplane to King Cove

Hiking above the town of King Cove

Lynn models the bear spray for the hikes

2 of the 3 cubs that were hustled away by a mama grizzly

The mountain scenery around the town

Gaby and Molly in the dental clinic

Alaskan condoms try to get the message across with humor

A brave puffin on the pier

Sitka trail works builds neat stairways though the forests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dentistry for docs

Future Antarctica medical staff get to practice gloved fingered dentistry on each other

Future Antarctica medical staff get to practice gloved fingered dentistry on each other

Tien and I playing hooky with our sailing adventure

Tien and I playing hooky with our sailing adventure

The full medical crew and the generous dentist that loaned us his office

The full medical crew and the generous dentist that loaned us his office

Ceremony for the 15 new pickleball courts in Colorado Springs.

Ceremony for the 15 new pickleball courts in Colorado Springs.

Balloons float towards the lake in hopes of doing a splash and dash

Balloons float towards the lake in hopes of doing a splash and dash

A fish shaped balloon drifts over the lake  before dipping in.

A fish shaped balloon drifts over the lake before dipping in.

Hola summer warriors,

As part of my ongoing consulting with the Antarctica program, I was told recently that funding was approved to teach the medical crew some dentistry before they head south to the frozen continent, instead of waiting for them to call me with questions like “If teeth really matter, how come they don’t teach anything about them in medical or nursing school?” Then Jim, who runs the program for UTMB in Galveston, TX, asked me how I wanted to teach the course, and I told him I would find a local dental office and we would practice on each other in a real dental setting. He skeptically asked how I thought I would find an office that would allow such an exercise, and thus the gauntlet was thrown. I did a few cold calls to dental offices and after one expressed mild interest, I sealed the deal by mentioning that we were trying to find an office that was interested in helping the US Antarctic Program- who could say “no” to that?

I joined the crew of 8 in Galveston a few weeks ago as they were going through orientation, and we spent 2 afternoons in the dental office I had secured taking x-rays, doing exams, and then practicing fillings on some teeth I had set up in models for their learning pleasure. Everyone seemed to enjoy the chance to root around in each others mouths with no tongue or gum lacerations that would take too long to heal. In the middle of the 6 day orientation I managed to corrupt my old pharmacy buddy, Tien, and we played hooky one day to go sailing on a lake on a sleek Hobie Cat. Inexplicably we somehow managed to irritate our coworkers with texts and photos of our sailing adventure while they sat in class.

In local news, Colorado Springs was back on the Pickleball map by unveiling 15 spanking new courts downtown last week, and when the politicians finally stopped jabbering to the anxious crowd of a few hundred people, we got to play on a world class venue. I even won a new paddle in a drawing, which I happily collected even after a heckler called out “He’s a dentist!” like I didn’t deserve to win because all dentists are filthy rich, which I tend to flaunt with my lavish lifestyle.

Labor Day weekend means the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, and I crawled out of bed at 5:30 this morning in hopes of seeing them launch and float around with the backdrop of the mountains. I wasn’t disappointed, and even after seeing them for over 30 years it was a treat. Hope your weekend is labor free, and you have a few more weeks of summer to soak in the warm weather.

Cheers,

Lavishing Bob

Madagascar Mojo

This black and white ruffed lemur was my buddy as long as I had some banana

This black and white ruffed lemur was my buddy as long as I had some banana

Our portable dental set-up worked pretty well

Our portable dental set-up worked pretty well

Pat and Richelle with a new eye glass fan

Pat and Richelle with a new eye glass fan

The director of the school, Richard, was a ping pong fan too

The director of the school, Richard, was a ping pong fan too

Weekend jungle lodge a few hours from the city

Weekend jungle lodge a few hours from the city

A two foot long chameleon eyes us warily

A two foot long chameleon eyes us warily

Ring tail lemurs looking for mischief

Ring tail lemurs looking for mischief

May 2014

Bonjour lemur fans,

            Pat and I signed up to be part of a Colorado Springs organized dental/vision project to Madagascar last month, and it was another adventure in third world travel. We hauled a dozen 50 pound bags of dental gear and donated eye glasses to take care of the kids and staff at a well run Street Kids Center in the capital city of Antananarivo, and were kept busy for a week and a half of eye exams and dental procedures. Pat enjoyed giving exams and dilating hundreds of kids eyes for Dr. Bob the ophthalmologist, while John, a dentist I shared an office with 30 years ago and I were engaged with pulling and filling teeth subjected to too much Coke and candy. The people we worked with were fabulous and everyone felt inspired by the smiles of the kids and their families. I even found out there was a ping pong table at the school, so spent some time routing the locals when I was done pulling teeth for the afternoon. I walked to the center each morning while the rest of the group chose to sit in stalled traffic, but they missed out on the essence of squalor and street sewage.

            One of my favorite aspects of the trip was the weekend getaway to a rain forest lodge to hang out with the wildlife and get to experience a setting where 80% of the animals are found no where else in the world. We hiked among the lemurs and chameleons, and even though Pat tried to avoid having a lemur land on her head she served as a nice vaulting horse for a few that wanted to get some banana from someone standing next to her. We stayed in a great house on church property and dined out a few times on French cuisine left from the colonization that ended in 1965. After our stint was completed we packed up and headed to the relative modern comfort of South Africa, but I’ll save that story for another email.

Cheers,

       Bob of lemur land