A Pennsylvania dentist recently traveled more than 8,000 miles from her hometown to Myanmar on a mission trip to give dental care to those in need in the Southeast Asian nation. Dr. Annette Merlino spent 11 days performing tooth extractions and training nonprofessionals how to do the same.
Dr. Merlino, of Annette Merlino DMD in Delmont, Pennsylvania has traveled to the undeveloped country two times before as well as taking two other trips through mPower Approach. mPower Approach is a faith-based medical mission organization whose mission is to provide medical and dental care to indigenous people of faith. They also dispense training to the people to allow them to take control of their own care and thus end dependency on outside help.
Merlino, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine, said that she pursued her career in dentistry with the main purpose of carrying out mission work. “I’m not gifted at preaching, and I’m not really good at talking, so God made me a dentist,” she said.
Merlino traveled to Kenya after dental school where she spent four months on her first dental missionary trip. Since then she has traveled to foreign countries an average of three times every year and organized countless service trips to Honduras where dental students contribute their services. Merlino said that the trips benefit both the dental students and the people who receive their care.
Linda Webster, executive director of mPower, said that Merlino possesses a special energy, allowing her to effectively treat a large amount of patients on the mission trips. She added that her patients continue to return because they know Merlino cares about them.
mPower, the organization that funds the mission trips, raises funding through individuals and churches. Merlino does her part in offsetting travel costs by organizing discounted dental fundraisers.