02connections-ols.jpgIn the waning weeks of summer break, disaster loomed along the Texas-Mexico border. Sort of. A massive cohort of military, medical and volunteer personnel descended upon the Rio Grande Valley Aug. 4 to 8, where they responded to a simulated bioterrorism threat with a medical countermeasure dispensing operation.

Created as a full-scale emergency response exercise, Operation Lone Star provides free health services to local residents at five sites located in four different counties in South Texas. Students and faculty from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry were a part of the event, now in its 16th year.

A vast collaborative effort of Texas county and state public health professionals, the operation is comprised of Texas Military Forces, U.S. military personnel, the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps and hundreds of volunteers, including faculty and 36 dental and dental hygiene students from Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry.

The experience is not for the faint of heart. Hopeful patients arrive in the middle of the night, waiting until dawn in lines that snake around the building. By 10 a.m. on Aug. 4, the first day of the weeklong event, the Palmview High School site in Mission, Texas, where TAMBCD students worked had already accepted 537 patients for medical, dental or vision appointments that day.

In total, volunteer dentists and dental students saw an estimated 737 patients at the high school throughout the week. A total of 2,948 patients received health care services at that single site.

— Jennifer Fuentes

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