When the YWAM Medical and Training Ship, MV YWAM PNG, sailed into the waters near Ben Sunga’s workplace, the Papua New Guinean dentist was eager to come aboard for its outreach in Finschhafen District, Morobe Province. Sunga has worked as a dentist for 41 years, but volunteering on the ship’s two-week outreach gave him his first chance to collaborate with another dentist.
In the ship’s dentistry clinic, Sunga worked alongside Dr James Clish, an Australian dentist who qualified in 2015. The differing backgrounds proved valuable. “It was really collaborative,” said Clish, “He had 40 more years under his belt than I did, but we were both on the same wavelength.” Sunga echoed the sentiment. “I’ve learned a lot from this.”
As Finschhafen’s sole dentist, Sunga was eager to learn techniques that had arisen in the years since his training. Clish trained Sunga in composite fillings, something Sunga had never done before. “We focused on the areas he wanted to brush up on,” said Clish, “[for the composite fillings] he observed me for a few patients, and I watched him and instructed him for a few patients, and then he was off and doing it on his own.”
The teaching went both ways, as Sunga demonstrated the considerable skills he had built up over the last 40 years. YWAM’s dental team called Sunga an “extraction machine” due to his speedy tooth extractions. “We don’t see much of that [in Australia], so I learned a lot, technique-wise,” said Clish.
In his time onboard, Sunga and the team performed 280 procedures — 76 of which were fillings. Sunga returned to Braun Hospital at the end of the outreach but took the lessons with him. “I’m so happy to learn from James,” said Sunga.
Sunga and Clish plan to stay in touch — Sunga can contact Clish with any questions he may have, and they hope they can organise equipment upgrades for Ben’s dentistry clinic. The mutual respect and collegiality that marked their collaboration will continue into the future.