During our trip to Ladakh I completed both the action and service components of my Capstone project. Recalling my original Capstone proposal, these components correspond to the screening clinic and hiking portions of the Ladakh trip.
The screening clinic part of the trip was oriented around the education of the local peoples about dental and optometric care and identifying severe issues in patients regarding the fields of dentistry and optometry. Optometric health is of particular concern in high altitude areas such as Ladakh (Which rests at approximately 3600 metres above sea level) because the strength of solar radiation is significantly increased, meaning that prolonged exposure to the sun in these areas makes the local peoples prone to cataracts and other forms of eyesight detriment. Dentists are also in high demand because the introduction of a modern, high-sugar diet to the local peoples was not met with an increase in oral hygiene, making the inhabitants of the area prone to tooth decay. My involvement in the screening clinic was to both educate those who showed up to the clinic about dental health and apply fluoride treatment to the teeth of young children.
The hiking portion of the trip, which as I said corresponded with the action requirements for my Capstone project, involved an eight day trek through multiple passes and valleys in the Himalayan mountain range. I found the trek to be significantly more challenging that the hiking I had previously done in British Columbia, largely due to the hypoxic environment present at such high altitudes. The trek ranged from altitudes of 3600 metres to 5500 metres, and was planned to include passing over two passes. However the day before the second pass, due to illness and moral fatigue among the group, we decided to not attempt the second pass and to instead detour out through a neighbouring valley.
Overall, my experiences in Ladakh were extremely memorable. Although if I were given the opportunity to go again I don’t believe I would, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the wonderful scenery and community in this near-forgotten corner of the world.