Army Dentists

Army Dentists


(man speaking Spanish) – [Narrator] Dr. Jose Cangas, DDS knew pretty early in life that he wanted to be a dentist. – [Jose Cangas] I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. ^My mom was a travel agent and our dentist ^used to use her services whenever he was traveling. This guy was always going to all sorts of cool places which meant two things. Number one: he had free time or he could set his own schedule to go on vacation whenever he wanted. Number two: he could afford my mom’s services which meant he had a little bit of money in his pockets. I thought, “Okay, I want to be like my dentist. He’s a super cool guy who always has time to travel and he’s got the the money to do it.” – [Narrator] Major Cangas is normally at his state-of-the-art clinic in North Carolina, but today he’s providing free services in a cramped dental van, deep in the heat of a border town in Texas. – It’s a tight space. You don’t have room to dance around. You can’t move without getting out of people’s way or being in people’s way and then we just have less equipment to work with and so when I’m done with this patient here, I may need that same instrument for my patient that’s sitting over there so it’s up to my tech to get it cleaned and sterilized in time for me to start using it over there. – [Narrator] He’s spending his summer on an innovative readiness training exercise that brings reserve soldiers from civil operations, medical, and engineering groups into areas that are suffering from little to no infrastructure resources. This one is on the outskirts of Laredo, Texas. – [Jose Cangas] What happened is that there was access to land for people to build homes on where there wasn’t any infrastructure, so there’s no running water, so people would have to bring water and keep it in barrels in these sorts of areas, it’s not like you can dig wells because it’s so dry. And that’s something that you hear about in third world countries, you’d never think that it’s happening within our borders. But it’s their home, it’s their land, it’s their walls and their roof so why would they leave? It’s all that they have even though it’s not what we would consider a livable condition. – [Narrator] It’s a situation Major Cangas knows a lot about. – [Jose Cangas] I was born and raised in El Paso, which is another border town just like Laredo. It’s basically just like this community. The neighborhood that I grew up in looks just like the neighborhood that surrounds this community center, it’s no different. Literally half the ladies in my chair remind me of my mom. And if I put myself in their position, if my mom were in such a place where she didn’t have access to care, then I’d be so thankful to have a group of army reserve dentists and physicians and optometrists come in and provide that service that they don’t have access to. It’s just such a great thing that our training needs happen to meet their needs. – [Narrator] The training the reserve soldiers have received while caring for the people of south Texas has proved indispensable, allowing them the opportunity to work on the needy while saving taxpayer money. But for Dr. Cangas, it goes beyond training. – I’ve gotten a lot of hugs and nobody’s tried to kiss me yet, but mostly it’s because they’ve got gauze in their mouth because they’ve just had a tooth extracted.

Author: Kevin Mason

1 thought on “Army Dentists

  1. Spent 5 years as USPHS medical officer and later private practice in the mid-80s in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This video brings back a lot of the memories of caring for those less fortunate than me. Thank you Doctor for carrying on that tradition.

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