Southern Utah News Articles
Local dentists do humanitarian mission in Haiti
While Dr. Peter Banks, D.D.S. and Dr. Matt Kelly, D.M.D, performed a touching humanitarian mission in Haiti that helped nearly 500 patients, they stress they were the ones most benefited.
“It was so rewarding,” said Banks. “I thought I was doing it to help others, but it was my life that was changed positively.”
Banks and Kelly own Coral Hills Family Dental at 181 W. Center Street in Kanab. The two doctors also provide dentistry in Page, alternating between the two communities. They have state of the art equipment at both locations, and can perform all dentistry services; including dental implants, teeth extractions, cleaning and cosmetic surgery.
“I was always fascinated by anatomy and physiology,” explained Banks of his career choice. “Dentistry just seemed like the right fit.”
“I always loved sciences,” said Kelly. “I was leaning to medical, but a cousin suggested dentistry. I called Peter and asked if he minded if I came out and hung with him at the dentist office for a couple of weeks. He very graciously said yes. Peter is a great mentor.”
Inspiration for the humanitarian trip came when Banks was in Salt Lake seeking some continuing education. While trips such as this are often advertised at dental conventions, Banks was particularly impressed with the HaitiHealthInitiative.org.
“I liked this one because it’s all funded personally, the dentists pay their own way,” said Banks. “It’s grass roots and service-oriented. It involves the Haitians in education, and encourages self reliance.”
Banks and Kelly joined a travel team of three other dentists, five hygienists, and three dental assistants. Banks’ son Austin also joined the group as a statistical reporter. Each team member was responsible for $1500 for expenses.
After landing in Haiti, the team had a two-hour drive, and then an hour hike in hilly mountainous terrain into the remote village of Timo. They slept in tents with mosquito nets, and shared a restroom in the Haitian built community center. They were assisted in patient communication by interpreters, and Banks gave a dental healthcare lecture at the Haiti State School of Dentistry.
“Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Banks, noting that there is only one dentist per 33,000 people. “They just don’t have any options. No jobs. They don’t worry about things like a college education – they worry about where the next meal will come from. The opportunities just aren’t there. I had to decompress and just cry several times.”
“There’s just nowhere for them to turn,” agreed Kelly. “There was no clean water, no sewer or garbage systems.”
The dental team didn’t lack for popularity! Kelly relates that the first night they woke up around 2 a.m. hearing voices nearby. “They were already starting to line-up for the 7 a.m. clinic!”
“We saw nearly 500 people in the time we were there. We did a lot of extractions,” said Banks. “They all got cleanings and exams. Most people had at least three procedures. We had to get a lot of stuff prepared due to the logistical and health challenges. It was hard, but rewarding.”
Banks and Kelly have already begun thinking about and planning their next humanitarian trip, both saying the experience was so fulfilling.
“My whole life has been really blessed,” said Kelly. “I came back feeling like I need to give more!”