Four years ago, we launched through the Crown Council and Smiles for Life Foundation an ambitious dental humanitarian project in the Dominican Republic with the goal of changing a culture. Each year we take four expeditions of Crown Council teams to the D.R. to work side-by-side with Dominican dentists and dental students to serve those in the country who have little or no access to dental care. For an up-close look you can visit www.CrownCouncil.Blogspot.com
The organizer and inspiration behind this ambitious project is Dr. Roy Hammond and his late wife Frances. Roy and Frances took me on my first dental humanitarian expedition in 2003 and I will never forget it and the lessons learned.
Toward the end of that trip, I remember many of us dragging. The days had been long, the weather was warm, and our energy levels were low. On that day, Frances Hammond came up to me and said, “I know we’ve worked on a lot of teeth during this week, but we didn’t come here to work on teeth, we came to work with people.”
We were scheduled that day to work at an orphanage for blind children many of whom had been abandoned by their parents. Our patients that day would never see us, they would never see the faces of the people helping them or working on their teeth. These children would only remember how we made them feel.
Frances gathered the dental team together for a “Morning Meeting” and reminded every one that dentistry isn’t about how many patients or procedures, the greatness of your technical expertise, or even teeth. That’s right. It’s not about teeth. It’s about the people and how they feel because we have been permitted to come into their lives.
That day, I watched in amazement as our exhausted team rallied around the true purpose of the mission, to serve people. I watched blind children feel the true care and concern from people they would never see with their eyes. It was a transforming experience that grounded me in the real purpose of service.
I have always been grateful for that lesson Frances taught all of us. She left a legacy behind when she passed away in 2009 that lives on in the work that continues in the Dominican Republic and the work that goes on every day in the practices that take the opportunity to serve there. They bring something back that positively influences the way they practice dentistry every day at home and the way they live their lives
So remember, it is not about the teeth. That’s a lesson that can be learned and relearned every day in every practice.
For more information on how you and your team can participate in the Crown Council’s dental humanitarian efforts, call: 1-800-276-9658 or e-mail Success@CrownCouncil.com.