MEDICAL MISSION TRIPS TO HONDURAS Make a Change Tooth Be Told 256.534.1475
M y dream to serve on a dental mission came true when I moved to Huntsville five years ago. I’ve always felt like I was being summoned to go on a mission trip, but my husband was on active duty and we were raising young kids, so I never had the opportunity. Shortly after we moved to Huntsville, I was thrilled to discover that the church we attend was coordinating a medical mission trip. I didn’t hesitate to volunteer and travel to Honduras with other dentists, doctors, and nurses. I knew Honduras would be very different than my home in the United States, but I wasn’t entirely prepared for the culture shock. On my first trip, we went down to a small village in Honduras that the group visited every mission trip for 15 years. The area was extremely poor and medical care was hard to come by. Most people lived in a level of poverty that seems impossible for those in the United States. The only time some people in the village were able to see a doctor was when the mission group came to visit. Being there was a life-changing experience in more ways than one.
horrible fever. We started him on antibiotics, but there was a moment when I was afraid the extractions might have been too much for him.
Our trip ended shortly after that, but I heard from someone else that he was recovering and doing okay. A few months later, I had the opportunity to go back to Honduras so I could check on this patient. Unfortunately, I wasn’t running the practice at the time and my boss told me I couldn’t go. So, I did the only logical thing: I lied to the office and played hooky so I could go to Honduras. I was able to see my patient again and confirm he really was doing well. On that second trip, I also helped a little boy who almost had his arm amputated, but that’s a story for another time. Until those mission trips, I thought I would be content working for someone else. Running a practice is a huge undertaking, and I was happy just taking care of my own patients. Being forced to play hooky in order to help someone made me realize I wanted to work for someone who would let me take care of my patients wherever they are in the world. If that meant I would have to buy the practice and run the show myself, so be it. Since my first mission trip to Honduras, I’ve gone six times and bought my practice here in Huntsville. I have enjoyed so many blessings in my life, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to give back, both at home and to my patients abroad. I hope that others will find a way to volunteer their time and talents no matter where they are.
I worked with a lot of patients on that first trip. One happened to be a young man with cerebral palsy. He was only in his late 20s, but he wasn’t
eating because his teeth hurt him so badly. One of the surgeons caring for this patient asked if I could do some extractions to help with the pain. I don’t even remember how many teeth I took out, more than 10 for sure. When I came back to check on him the next day, he was lying on the couch with a
“I did the only logical thing: I lied to the office and played hooky so I could go to Honduras.”
— Dr. Elizabeth Duling
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