Report: Navutu Stars Medical/Dental Mission 2013

By Linda Kwasny, Founding Board Member, Loloma Foundation

It gives me great pleasure to report that our first mission of 2013 went incredibly well, with no “Fiji factors”. That means that the weather was great, there were no mechanical delays, all equipment functioned and all of our materials arrived on time!

Medical Team

The medical team, led by our board member and pediatrician-extraordinaire Lynne Scannell consisted of Scripps residents Dan Given and Jim Hart, and Neil Kalra (hospitalist), Lynne Calkins (nurse practitioner) and Teresa Moore and Natalie Thigpen running intake and screening. Kelly Chambers, returning for the third mission, was our capable pharmacist. 

The medical team hit the water each day to travel by boat, setting up clinics on different rural islands. It was hot, the seas were often rough and they were occasionally swamped by patients. They never complained and always returned with great stories about their day.

These incredibly organized and intrepid people saw a total of 761 patients in eight different villages. 

Dental Team

The Dental contingent was led by board member, Prosthodontist (private practice) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Bob Duell. His team consisted of our honored returnees Dave Nicholls, oral surgeon and Evelyn Chung (UCLA professor). Dave and Evelyn based themselves in the bright pink Spa and managed the extractions. Their place became known as “the house of pain”, but was actually pain-free! Heather Nicholls was their very capable assistant.   UCLA residents Kirsten McCarville and Joseph Hahn worked with Bob Duell in the “dental bure” (Bob and Joe’s villa) and handled the restorations and fillings. Liam Chambers and Joseph Dulunaqio returned again to assist the dentists. Rich Kwasny ably managed intake and screening. Linda Kwasny turned over instruments in the autoclave. 

Outside on the breezy Spa deck, hygienists Michelle Sutanto and Jacinda Neilson set up their clinic to clean, seal and varnish teeth. It was quite a busy area at Navutu Stars!

In eight days, our dental team saw a total of 259 patients. 213 teeth were extracted, 377 teeth were sealed, 105 teeth were varnished and 135 fillings were completed. 

Navutu Stars Resort Our Gracious Hosts

The entire team had a magical cohesiveness. Great conversations into the night were enjoyed by all. We continue to be grateful to the owners of Navutu Stars, Madda, Freddie and Giovanna, for opening their hearts and the resort to our team for the seventh year. The management and staff do incredible things to make everything flow productively. 

Our teams are certainly far from the average resort guests, in that we were continually having Matai (electrician) reconfigure the electrical, or repair some faulty wiring. The girls were so helpful keeping the operatories ultra-clean and washing our clothes and scrubs. As usual, nobody starved! Ben and his crew managed to outdo themselves with the over-the-top gourmet cuisine. Kikau and Sunia served the most artistically fabulous drinks that enabled our moods to go from dreamy to over the top!! This year, happy to report that NOBODY was dehydrated, thanks to the continual conduit of water jugs moving everywhere. 

A special thanks to Dan, Reapi and Vinnu for all of the behind-the scenes pre-scheduling that needed to be in place before our arrival. And to the managers extraordinaire, Steven and Brandon, we couldn’t make this happen without you all.

About Author: Bob Sykes

Bob Sykes is a founding board member, Treasurer, and Logistics Coordinator for the Loloma Foundation's medical and educational missions, and he also manages the Foundation’s website and public relations activities.