Townies crisscross the globe to ensure that everyone has access to good dental care
Since 2011, the May issue of Dentaltown magazine has profiled dental professionals who’ve donated their time and services to those in desperate need of care, whether in their communities or halfway across the world.
For this year’s installment, we asked Townies to send in photos of their recent philanthropic projects and to share a few words about where and why they participated. Over the next few pages, you’ll meet some of your peers and learn what drives them to give back. (We’ve placed the names of Townies in bold.)
As a board member of Universal Smiles, Dr. Michael Farmer of Plaza Midwood Dentistry in Charlotte, North Carolina, accompanied University of North Carolina dental students Ashley Gates, Kasey Hornock, Ashley Mull and Trang Tran on a 2019 trip to provide dental education events and outreach clinics in the Nakasongola District of Uganda.
Universal Smiles’ newly formed nonprofit organization hopes to build a full-time dental clinic to improve access to care and provide preventive care year-round while helping local Ugandan dental professionals to achieve their dental objectives.
Dr. Roberto Loar, a pediatric dentist associate at Stevenson’s Dental Ark in El?Paso, Texas, averages five international dental volunteer trips a year, including last June’s Global Health Outreach effort in Ndola. “This trip was particularly special because I was able to use my background in pediatric dentistry to help alleviate pain and teach dental health to a very high-risk population,” Loar says.
Dr. Thomas Kammer of Sage Dental Care in Boulder, Colorado, joined his first Global Dental Relief team in 2014 in Cambodia and has since volunteered in several other clinics. He and his wife, Julie, are pictured here on their visit to Pokhara in April 2019.
In Indianapolis, Dr. Anne Gormley works at HealthNet, a nonprofit organization focused on providing medical and dental care to the underserved. Gormley’s efforts aren’t only local, either; she has participated in five charity dental clinics around the world, including one with Global Dental Relief in Pharping in March 2019. “I volunteer because of the nature of GDR and its mission to do good on a global scale,” she says. “I feel like I can use my skill set to help people who truly need it.”
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Giving back has always been a vital part of Dr. Elijah Ed’s career. Within a year of graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he traveled to Guatemala in 2014 to volunteer with his wife, Mandy. They fell in love with the culture and children, returning to Guatemala twice and once to Kenya with Global Dental Relief. In March 2019, they volunteered in Cambodia, providing critical dental care to children in rural areas outside Siem Reap. “Volunteering has been such a rewarding decision,” says Ed, pictured here with Chuck McNeil, an assistant during the trip, and a patient. “Serving these children and providing them with dentistry that they otherwise could not access is so encouraging. You go to give, but it’s amazing how you end up receiving so much more.”
New York City
Over one week in December 2019, the 24-office NYC Dentists Give Back Group provided no-charge dental exams and cleanings to veterans across all New York boroughs and Long Island. Pictured from left: Metro-area veterans directors Manuel Rodriguez and Johnnie Williams; veterans advocate Terri Ham; a dental assistant; retired Harlem Globetrotter Bobby Hunter; Dr. Fernando Cordero of New Image Dental in Ridgewood, New York; a dental assistant; Dr. Bernard Fialkoff, a private practitioner in Bayside, New York, who created the Give Back Group; and a veteran.
“We completed multiple fillings and new removable partial dentures for Darlene in October 2019 through Dental Lifeline Network’s Donated Dental Services program,” says Dr. Dallin Snow of Snow Family Dentistry in Mesa. “She was so grateful and sent us the nicest thank-you card.”
San Martín, Guatemala
Dr. Suzanne Maslo of the Metro Community Health Center in Pittsburgh is no stranger to volunteering; since the early 1990s, she has dedicated thousands of hours to providing dental care, locally and abroad. “I feel I have a responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable and least served in my city, my state, my country and my world,” she says. “It is in my being, part of who I am, and what I believe I am here for.” Last June, she volunteered in San Martín, where she treated hundreds of children with the first dental care of their lives.
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Last November, several Townies traveled to La Romana for a weeklong mission trip organized by the Scheduling Institute and World Mission Partners to inaugurate a newly opened dental clinic and training center at Good Samaritan Hospital. More about the Scheduling Institute’s efforts in the Dominican Republic begins below.
Santiago, Dominican Republic
In October 2019, Dr. Chad Johnson of Veranda Dentistry in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, joined multiple hygienists and assistants in treating patients from New Hope Girls, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycles of abuse and exploitation of young girls in the Dominican Republic. Productive Dentist Academy executives Victoria Peterson and Regan Robertson and other staffers joined the effort to help treat 341 patients from the organization and the general public over one week.
Doing Good in the Dominican Republic
Last November, several Townies flew to the Dominican Republic for a weeklong mission trip and to inaugurate the newly opened training center at the Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana. It was one more milestone in an evolving vision to provide dental care to the La Romana community.
They are benefiting from more than only dental care—friendship, training, a new perspective on patient care and opportunities for better lives are all byproducts of the work your colleagues, their teams and others who work in dentistry are doing to help those in need.
Scheduling Institute (SI) and World Mission Partners have coordinated dental mission trips to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic for several years. Since 2014, 120 doctors and 817 team members have treated more than 6,700 adult and pediatric patients, providing everything from cleanings and fluoride varnish to extractions and fillings.
Dr. Steve Pilipovich and his team of 16 participated in the first pediatric mission. Pilipovich says he found it rewarding to be able to teach young dentists pediatric techniques they’d never seen before, but most rewarding of all was the reaffirmation that “I seem to have been blessed with a God-given talent for delivering great dental care to kids, along with my team. Being able to take that on the road, so to speak, and deliver services that those kids wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. ... It really makes a difference in how we feel about ourselves. We’ve been reminded that the heart of our practice, and the very reason we got into this business, is to help people.”
His team members echoed his sentiments, he said. “We’ve seen such a change in our team. You come back more culture-minded, caring, compassionate individuals. You value the care you give your patients more than the paycheck you receive for the work you do. Interactions become more relational than transactional; you take more time to nurture individual relationships.”
The training center was a project started by SI CEO Jay Geier to give the hospital a place to conduct trainings for its employees. “We have already learned so much from American dentists and through SI training,” said hospital executive director Moises Sifren. “We are learning about culture, team-building, communication, leadership and standards of excellence. We are especially learning how to treat patients well.”