I’m so pleased to share with you that Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star has just published an article in about our 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program. Here’s a link to the article on the Toronto Star’s website, which appeared on the front page of the “G” Section of the Toronto Star on Boxing Day (December 26, 2015), as well as in Star Touch for those of you with iPads (with a couple of pics from our trip). FYI, if you’re interested in learning more about the 2015 trip, check out this blog post here. If you’re interested in volunteering / donating to our worthy cause, please contact me (Michael Carabash).
Nicholas Keung, “Toronto lawyer gives poor Jamaicans something to smile about:Michael Carabash leads team of Canadian dentists and hygienists in running free dental clinics in rural Jamaica”, Toronto Star (December 26, 2015), G1.
Jamaica often puts a smile on the faces of Canadian tourists. But this time, it was a group of Canadians saving the smiles of impoverished Jamaicans.
Toronto lawyer Michael Carabash was lounging on a beach in Negril on his birthday last year when he bumped into a group of British and American dentists running free dental clinics for local residents.
He made a birthday wish that day to return to Jamaica this year with a team of Canadian dentists and hygienists in tow.
Carabash, whose law firm specializes in dental practices, and the team of 30 volunteers he recruited through his clients and contacts, spent a week hosting three clinics in rural Jamaica for hundreds of locals who couldn’t afford a simple extraction or basic dental care.
“We had people lining up at the gate in early morning. They all had dire dental needs,” said Carabash, whose volunteers were supported by Great Shape Inc., a facilitator of humanitarian projects in the Caribbean, and the Sandals Foundation, which provided accommodation.
“In rural Jamaica, they have one dentist for 100,000 patients. It’s very inaccessible. Many have very little education about dental care.”
Mississauga dentist Fadi Swaida is no stranger to volunteering at free dental clinics, having run similar endeavours for low-income and homeless people in Winnipeg while studying at the University of Manitoba. However, the experience in Jamaica was an eye-opener, he said.
“I did 70 teeth extractions over five days. It was hard because it wasn’t perfect clinic conditions. There was no light. It’s so hot we had to stay hydrated,” said Swaida. “In Canada, we help patients get care. There, we just try to get people out of pain.”
Melissa Brunette, a hygienist from Gatineau, Que., said she did 14 cleanings during her eight-hour shift each day at the free clinic and was surprised to see gum and teeth problems in teenagers that one normally would only expect to see in people in their 60s.
While many of her young patients had really clean, white teeth, looking under their gums revealed tartar and big cavities, she said. A quick lesson in proper flossing followed.
“They didn’t do it right because no one ever taught them how to do it,” she said.
Brunette said it took the volunteers some time to adjust to the makeshift clinics.
“We had suctions that weren’t working well. I was wearing this frontal light on my forehead, so I could see inside the patient’s month. I could only move my eyes, and not my head. Otherwise, I couldn’t see,” Brunette recalled.
“But it’s all worth it. I received so many hugs. I feel like the number one hygienist in Canada, because now I appreciate my work that much more.”
Brampton’s Catherine Nguyen was among five University of Toronto dental school students who joined the mission.
“We could only do one procedure per patient, but sometimes people needed multiple. It was hard to limit treatments, since we wanted to give everyone comprehensive care,” she said. “What was most gratifying was seeing people smile. It’s a great learning experience on so many levels.”
Not only is Carabash already planning the next mission, he said he is raising money for a permanent volunteer clinic there.
One week in Negril, Jamaica
2,142: Patients seen
752: Cleanings provided
1,406: Teeth extracted
548: Filings performed
302: Fluoride applied
I’m so very pleased to announce that Oral Health Office magazine will be publishing my article entitled “Mission Accomplished! 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Project” in the October edition, which is going to be mailed out to thousands of dentists across Ontario. I’m particularly proud of this program and our participants. Kudos to you! Modern day heroes! Here is the article (FYI, you can click HERE to read all of our articles):
I’ve said it before: serendipity. That’s how I described discovering a an initiative that allowed us to bring Ontario dentists down to Jamaica to do volunteer dental outreach. That was on my birthday in September 2014. And when we went down for our inaugural year, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be hard, challenging work. But oh so rewarding too! And I hoped that, if all went well, we would continue to build the program year and after year so that dentists, hygienists, students and support staff could benefit from this amazing program. But was that enough?
No. There had to be something bigger that we could do. We’d come this far. What’s a little extra? But what was that little extra? I had to experience the week. Observe. Ask questions. And let my environment affect me. And so it did…
In the van, on the way down to the clinic, I asked Salli-Jo about Great Shape! Inc.’s goals. She said that her and Papa Joe were extremely grateful to the Sandals Foundation for accommodating volunteers each year for 3-4 months. And then she talked about establishing a public dental clinic that operated year round to offer free dental services to Jamaicans. The government would (hopefully) donate the land. And they needed money to build the clinic (plus accommodations). It would (hopefully) be on a beach property and have accommodations to host North American and Jamaican dentists, hygienists, dental students and support staff all year round. And it would be strategically positioned: just a bus ride from almost everywhere in Jamaica so that people could come from all over to be treated.
A light bulb suddenly appeared over my head. “That’s my new goal!” I proclaimed. We would help Great Shape! Inc. raise money, get donations and bring dentist volunteers (among others) down to Jamaica to provide free dental care when their regular program was not running. This would allow impoverished Jamaicans to be treated year-round. This also works out well for us in Canada during the winter months (who wouldn’t want to escape to Jamaica in January / February / March?).
So that is our new goal: raise $1-million to establish a free public dental clinic that can accommodate Jamaica and North American dentists, hygienists, and support staff year long.
How do we get there?
I’ll be the first to admit: I’ve never done this before and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I figure setting up a Canadian charity is a good start. So we’ll get started on that. Then comes raising awareness of our initiative and fundraising.
I needed ideas… Then, coincidentally, last week, I was invited to attend the “Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation” annual gala / fundraising event. What I saw was truly inspiring: individuals from all walks of life (including celebrities like Dwight Drummond, comedian Jay Martin, Karl Hale, and Mike “Pinball” Clemens) had come together to raise more than $1-million over a 10 year period to help build schools in Jamaica. There were silent and not-so-silent auctions. And people gave generous amounts of money for this worthy cause. So now I had an idea of what kind of event we could eventually have to raise money.
So what can we do to raise money? Well, I think we will need to lead by example. So we will be ponying up money for our own cause. My hope is, when others see what we’re trying to do, and how we have a great team in place to make sure it happens, coupled with our drive, that they will donate as well.
Now, there’s a big difference between just donating money (e.g. as a gift of cash in a Will, or to get a charitable tax receipt) and what we are going to do: donors can actually EXPERIENCE the goal. Right now, dentists, hygienists, dental students, and support staff can actually come down to Jamaica with us each year and treat locals through the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc. Then, once our dental practice is established, they can come and stay there too! They can see their donation in action. It’s not like raising money and building a school you may never visit. You will actually be living and working and enjoying the very thing that you contributed to. And I think it will be addictive: to reunite for a few days a year with a group of like-minded individuals to give back to a worthy cause. To build your own little legacy. I’ve heard it described by one dentist who regularly participates as: the best week of the year which I look forward all year round.
My hope is that our free public dental clinic will have all the bells and whistles of a top-notch dental practice here in Canada. So I will be looking for ongoing donations for equipment and supplies from our Canadian and U.S. manufacturers and distributors. And to make our volunteers comfortable and excited about coming down, my hope is that will be able to offer all inclusive amenities in addition to the warmth (which is often missing in Canada). The best of both worlds… And I hope we’re the busiest dental practice in Jamaica year round. I’m also hoping there will be opportunities for cooperation / sharing of knowledge with local Jamaican dental and hygiene students, dentists and hygienists so that they can take what they’ve learned and experienced with them wherever they end up.
Now: we can’t do this on our own. We need your help. We are committed for the long haul. It will be our legacy and (hopefully) yours too. Once we accomplish this formidable and worthy goal, we will have created something from nothing that will give back for the benefit of thousands of people today and tomorrow (hopefully long after we’ve passed). Isn’t that what life’s all about? Make the world a better place…
One love and Triple P 😉
This is a follow up to my two previous blogs about our 2015 Jamaica Dental Outreach Program. I’ve written 5 blogs about our trip and you can read them here: (1) Mission Accomplished + New Mission, (2) PICS from the Week, (3) What Transpired, (4) Stories From The Clinic, (5) Final Thoughts.
Each morning typically started off the same: wake up, eat breakfast together as a team, get a daily briefing from Great Shape! Inc. staff, get your supplies, and off to the clinic to do some good / hard work!
That first day was special. We were with our team for the first time. On a mission (literally)…
Now, people who know me will say that I talk a lot about team building and brand building. I’ve written about team building here, here, here and here. Team building typically involves things like: sharing a common philosophy about who we are and what are trying to be, understanding each team member’s role and responsibilities, empowering team members, always being on the hunt for talent, motivating your team (e.g. through goal setting, caring about them, etc.), and understanding the different personalities of your team and even hiring based on that, etc.
So… what do you do when you’re teamed up with a bunch of strangers and you’re charged with doing something you’ve never done before (namely, run a dental clinic in a hot environment with a huge demand and limited supplies and equipment)? Simple: you start off establishing a team.
Team Building 101: Use DISC!
In my opinion, the first thing you want to try to do is select roles for the right individuals / personality types. My role was that of “patient intake”, although I also played other roles – like mob control, sterilizer, dental assistant and photographer. My role required a “D” personality (this makes sense to those who know their D.I.S.C. personality profiles) – someone who can take charge and make the clinic work. We had Signe doing sterilization; in my opinion, she was an “S” for “steady”, which was perfect for that role (detail oriented; highly structured; not requiring the limelight or too much interaction with others). We had a pair of hygienists – Melissa and Stacieanne – who were clearly “I”s, which stands for “Influencers”; they were always happy yapping, hugging, smiling. Very bubbly individuals!
We had some more D’s in the group – namely, dentists and assistants. At one point, we were calling Dr. Sylvie Dagenais “Dr. D” because she has a strong personality type (being from Gatineau helps make you that way, I guess?) but she’s so amazing and comprehensive with patients – especially frightened children (her specialty). And we also had some quieter and more detail-oriented dentists and assistants who would be “C” personality types (“C” stands for “Conscientious”; they love the details and are highly organized).
So what’s my point here? Just make sure that you have the right personality type for each job. Make sure you have enough of each personality type. And teach your individual team members to accommodate different personality types to help avoid conflicts. We use DISC in this manner at DMC LLP and it’s a best practice among our dentist clients (they do it for both their staff and patients).
Now that we had a team, we needed to brand ourselves. I’ve written extensively on branding here for example (just keep scrolling down and going onto more pages). Branding typically involves things like strategizing about creating a unique and memorable brand that will spread socially (by making sure it is cool, emotionally based, full of triggers, contains practice benefits, pushes private acts into the public sphere, and has a story attached to it). Then it needs to be put in the hands of well-connected individuals, mavens, and salespeople who are team members, clients, and centres of influence.
On our way down to the clinic, I figured we needed a team name. After a few failed attempts, I suggested we call ourselves “Triple P” and that “P” would stand for Punctual, Positive Attitude, and Party. “Punctual” came from some of our group members not being on time for orientation. “Positive Attitude” came from the idea that we were here in Jamaica, helping others and that no matter what, we would always remember that (ONE LOVE!). And obviously, when you work hard, you like to Party hard too. That’s where Beaches Resort came into play.
The name “Triple P” was instantly and universally accepted. We even had a chant that went something like this:
What’s Our Team Name? TRIPLE P!
What’s The First “P” Stand For? Punctual! Because We Arrive “On Time!”
Throughout The Day, We Have a “Positive Attitude”
And When We’re Done, We Love to “PARTY!!!”
TRIPLE P ON 3: 1, 2, 3…TRIPLE P!!!!
Now just picture us screaming and yelling this every day – particularly early in the morning just when everyone is on the bus trying to get some rest / recovery from the previous day.
Now, while other teams came up with their own team name, the “Triple P” brand really took off. It even developed it’s own hand gesture:
To do the gesture, you have to do a “One Love” with your right hand (just stick out your index finger with a straight arm) and then formulate a backwards “P” with your left hand (three fingers up; all other fingers hidden) so that the person viewing you can see a P with three fingers held up above it.
We eventually created a cocktail named “Triple P” (small amount of simple syrup, gin, soda and lime). Many of us drank only that throughout the entire week. Very refreshing when you’ve been in the sun / heat all day!
On our last day, when I met the new group coming in, some members of Great Shape! Inc. continued to yell “Triple P!” and do the hand gesture, thereby socially disseminating that brand to a new crop of volunteers.
Amazing! In just a few short days, a simple brand had spread throughout two very large groups (and who knows where it will end up?). Even after we left, Great Shape! Inc. organizers were sending me emails with this written at the bottom: “One Love and Triple P”.
On Monday, I developed a new appreciation for dentists, assistants, hygienists, front desk staff and office managers. Simply put: it’s a lot of hard work you guys are doing! And it’s physically laborious. No wonder you guys need to see massage therapists. As a lawyer, I spend hours in front of a computer or on the phone or visiting dentists. It’s not physically difficult and I don’t deal with more than 100 dentists a year; but you guys see a lot of patients (sometimes a few hundred per year) and it’s amazing that your workspace is confined to a very tight area. Amazing!
So what did I do? Well, I didn’t really sit down the whole week. I started off doing ‘mob control’ (think: 300+ people trying to come in at once and being stopped only by a somewhat porous gate, myself, and some community volunteers). It worked out in that we were able to give ticketed appointments to about 350 people for the next week and a half, which helped calm the crowd and send people home. The other two clinics (Cave Valley and Kendall) didn’t have the same issue initially: one clinic actually had to send someone out in a van to collect patients! I loved my job, and having done it all week, I hope to do it better the next time around.
We only had 2 dentists and 2 hygienists for most of the week and we saw an average of about 45 patients a day. It was busy! Once we were properly organized for the week, my responsibilities included: doing patient intake, interacting with local volunteers (“Keep that Damn Gate Closed!” or “Get Those Kids Away From the Windows!” were some of my favourite sayings), sterilizing chairs and equipment, emptying the so-called “Bloody Spittoon” (we had portable Cavatrons that needed the spit to be changed out every now and then), refilling the Cavatron water compartments, taking digital x-rays when required (with Patterson Imaging software and scanners), making sure the team was well hydrated / rested and liaising with EVERYONE regularly to make sure the office could keep running and that they knew how far along we were and what was left to do for the day. I learned so much about processes, equipment, supplies, etc. and I am grateful to everyone who was patient with me.
Speaking with the locals about their daily living conditions also struck a chord with me and many others. Being out and about with the local population, I would hear stories about how families didn’t have enough money to send children to school; how dentistry was in such high demand but unaffordable to the masses and how it was controlled by private interests; how people suffered with sensitive, chipped / broken teeth, or stained teeth. We couldn’t help everyone. You wanted to. We all wanted to stay there all day and night treating patients, but it wasn’t physically possible and you had to rest up for the next day. We did see (at all 3 clinics) over 730 patients which we are proud of. Some of us initially thought we weren’t making a difference: how can we possibly do good when all we are doing is 1 extraction when 3 or 4 are required, plus 2 fillings and a cleaning? We were limited in time and resources. We did what we could with what we had. And the people were so grateful we were there. And our dentists even bent the rules and did a few more extractions (than they were required to do). Or sent a patient who had a filling done to get a cleaning. We had ethical and practical issues arise every single minute. And we dealt with them as best as we could. Again, we saw a lot of desperate patients that week.
But it’s not just a numbers game: we connected with patients and local volunteers. I’m sure that each of us had a moment that truly affected us. That brought home the idea of why we were there. It’s all about the people. Giving back to them. Helping them and helping ourselves in the process. And some of us went above and beyond to help out in any way we could (e.g. a few members of our team sponsored some children so they could have books and clothes to go to school, etc.). The fact that our dentists, hygienists and support staff were able to make them walk away with less pain or a more beautiful smile made a world of difference to them (and us too!).
We took lots of pictures with patients after their treatment (some of which you can see here). They would come up to us and give us hugs and handshakes with large grins. They would be smiling and happy to have a filling done, a cleaning, or a tooth extracted. That is how they show their appreciation because they have little or nothing else to give. One older gentleman with a red bonnet and who was missing quite a few teeth (who I will never forget) was so grateful that he dropped off a 50 lb bag on our last day, full of sugar cane, coconuts, and juicy plums (which you can see cut up on the bus ride home here:
YUMMY! I had been craving sugar cane the entire trip. The team enjoyed those goodies. FYI, the towel in the picture was placed there by Brian (our driver) as a result of me having all the white stuff on me (explained below!!!).
Back at the resort, after a long / hard day, we were pooped! We would typically shower / nap / meet up for a dip in the pool / beach and have dinner. Some of us would take in a show. And then we’d head to the bar for some Triple Ps. We’d “PARTY” hard, as our brand requires. So that was day 1. Now we knew what life would be for the next few days.
Throughout the week, we basically repeated what happened on Monday, but with a few changes. For example: at the clinic, we accommodated a blind man (which really affected me), a screaming child (thank God for Dr. D!), and many elderly with high blood pressure. I saw Dr. Grantly (a new dentist graduate from U Tech Dental) spend 1.5 hours trying to extract roots on a tooth (for which the crown had snapped during an extraction). Despite struggling and sweating, he never gave up or called for help. He got it done. And I was so amazed that I gave him a new nickname on the bus-ride home: “Dr. Scoops”. His weapon of choice: a scooper (a.k.a. elevator)! Here is Dr. Scoops working on another patient (note: he saw about 18 patients that day, almost all of them were extractions! And to think he is just a new grad dentist! AMAZING!):
Funny enough, the nickname “Dr. Scoops” stayed with Grantly for the rest of the trip. Even the Dean of U Tech Dental / Chief Medical Officer of Jamaica (Dr. Irving McKenzie, pictured above) called him Dr. Scoops during dinner on Saturday. I hope he doesn’t mind 😉
I’ll be honest: every day, I looked forward to returning to the clinic. To do better the next day. I actually dreamt about it each night. It’s like I was addicted to it: I didn’t care about eating or drinking or sitting. I wanted to get back there and reprise my role. To learn and help out as best as I could. And I wasn’t the only one. Our entire group would talk during dinner about how they wanted to improve and get back out there. We would talk about how many dentist or hygiene cases were booked for the day and how we were going to manage. We talked about supplies and what we needed. We made suggestions and gave ourselves critical feedback. We collaborated. It was quite amazing. Everyone who went down on this trip TRULY cared about providing top notch dental services. While being at a Beaches resort was definitely amazing (and we are forever grateful to the Sandals Foundation for donating the rooms), I’m sure most of us will remember the good work that we did and the people we met.
Friday: Happy B-Day (enter the beer and flour)
OK, so Friday was my birthday. And I learned during the week that it was typical to get doused in beer, flour and eggs on your birthday. So I came prepared to the clinic that Friday. I brought extra clothes. The entire day went by and nothing happened. I noticed that there was some beer in our cooler (which we never had before and which there was only 1 can of), and I thought: hmmm… not the best thing to pack in the cooler given that no one can drink on the job… ah well, someone will have it after we’re done. And that someone was ME! So the local volunteers called me into the waiting area, took off my hat and sunglasses and gave me a Happy Birthday – Jamaican Style:
In my next blog, I’ll talk about how some of the major lessons I learned and how we can improve this already amazing trip for the next group going down next year.
Dr. Tim Milligan put it best: “It was the experience of my lifetime“. He spoke those words as part of his acceptance speech when he received the U of T Award of Distinction in the spring of 2014 for his extensive dental outreach work abroad. He was describing his most recent trip with his daughter, Dr. Melissa Milligan. And he said those words. And they hit me. I did not have a so-called “experience of my lifetime”. I wanted one. More than anything else…
So over the next few months, I’d find myself googling “dental mission trips” or “dentists without borders” in the Caribbean. You see, with a baby boy, it’s hard for me to travel beyond the Caribbean (longer flights are harder for me to manage, especially NOW with a 2.5 year old and a pregnant wife). And it just happened to be that, on my birthday, when I was with the family in Beaches Negril last September with Dr. Christina Bodea and her husband Stefan, we met up with Papa Joe (a.k.a. Joseph Wright). We didn’t know each other. But it was a meeting that was meant to be. I showed him my great card trick and afterwards, when we got to talking, he told me that he and his group (called “Great Shape! Inc.”) helps organize groups of dentists, hygienists and dental students to come down to Jamaica to volunteer (and the Sandals Foundation generously donates $1-million worth of rooms, transportation, meals and entertainment to his group). I’ve previously written about this meeting here.
After extensive discussions over a few months, DMC LLP and Great Shape! Inc. were able to organize a mission trip at the same resort (Beaches Negril) from August 28 through to September 6, 2015. We had a large group of dentists, hygienists, dental students from U of T, assistants, and non-professional volunteers go down to Jamaica to provide free dental care to impoverished Jamaicans:
As I’ll describe over the next few blogs, it was hard work, extremely rewarding, and it will forever change my life and my views. If you’re interested in joining us next year, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
But let me jump to the conclusion first. What’s the end result? Well, now that it’s done…we will definitely be going down again next year. I love the Jamaican culture, the people, the food, the music, and the opportunity to help their community. And we will be organizing next year’s trip likely after November (when Great Shape! Inc. wraps up their current program and can take a minute to breathe!).
But, in addition to continuing this great program, we have a new goal: to help establish a free public dental clinic in Jamaica with accommodations to allow Canadian / U.S. dentists, hygienists, assistants, dental students and others to stay a week at a time to volunteer and treat Jamaicans in need of oral care. Again, this new project will be in ADDITION to partaking in the Great Shape! Inc. and Sandals Foundation “1,000 Smiles” dental outreach program, which runs typically from August through to November each year in Jamaica and in July in St. Lucia.
So how much do we need to raise to establish a clinic and accommodations (on the beach hopefully)? I think raising $1-million is a very good start. That will give them enough to build a state of the art clinic and accommodations that will be able to run year-round. We will be recruiting dentists, hygienists, assistants, and spouses to come down and experience Jamaica and help those in desperate need. We will also need supply companies like Henry Schein, Patterson and K-Dental to donate equipment and supplies to our clinic. And I’d like to see the two dental schools (U of T and UWO) on board is also on the agenda, as we will need dental students to come down and volunteer. It may take some time to accomplish, but we are committed for the long haul.
So that’s our new mission… a worthy goal… a legacy to build and leave behind so that generations of impoverished Jamaicans (on the one hand) and Jamaican and North American dental professionals can mutually benefit. Let’s get together and make this happen.
One Love 😉
David Mayzel is your legal risk manager. He is a trained courtroom lawyer and has spent many years resolving disputes both in and out of court. He knows how to prepare documents and execute transactions in a way that avoids or mitigates legal risks. He can be reached at 416.528.5280. or email@example.com.
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