For the 10th year, local dentists and doctors traveled in March to a mission in Haiti to provide free dental and medical care to patients.
This year, the dental group saw over 1,000 patients, providing fillings, teeth extractions and a variety of other dental care. Over the past 10 years, a total of 9,400 children and adults have received free care at the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Haiti Kobonal Mission near Hinche.
The group made its first trip in 2009, funded and organized by St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lincoln. Dr. Addison Killeen, a partner of Williamsburg Dental in Lincoln, understands the impact their work has in Haiti.
“Offering basic dental procedures means so much to the people of Haiti,” Killeen said. “It’s something we take for granted here in the United States, but is a life changer for them.”
Starting in 2012, the group began providing medical services along with dental. Teresa Raun, a nurse with the group, said conditions are such that they don’t know what to expect when a patient walks in.
“We’ve treated patients with minor wounds to a girl who collapsed in the clinic with a life-threatening condition,” Raun said. The addition of Raun and the other doctors and nurses allows the team to provide care and serve even more people at the mission.
“A handful of dentists seeing over 1,000 patients in a week is quite hectic but highly rewarding,” Killeen said.
The people of Haiti are in need of dental care but have limited access to it. Over the years, the group has focused on providing preventative dental care. “If we can do more than just treat dental issues, but provide care that has a longterm effect, we are making a bigger difference,” Killeen added.
Over the 10 years, the medical team has grown from eight to 17 people and has donated over $3.3 million in time and supplies with $274,000 in 2018 alone. The trip is completed on a budget of just $25,000.
The team’s services go beyond care. Team members encourage healthy lifestyles and eating habits that promote good dental health.
“We are establishing relationships with the people and those at the mission every trip we make, and each year we see progress,” Killeen said.
During the group’s first year of providing care, a high number of teeth needed extraction due to their condition. With the focus over the past decade on promoting healthy teeth and preventive care, the dentists have seen a significant decrease in the number of teeth needing extraction.
“We went from extracting over two teeth per patient in 2009 to around one during the last trip,” Killeen said. “It is tremendously encouraging see this progress and know the work we are doing is making a difference in the lives of the people of Haiti.”