A confident smile can light up any encounter, especially when we meet people for the first time, but poor dental health can inhibit one’s self confidence, impair proper digestion, and even lead to complications such as heart disease and diabetes. Sadly, people who are homeless or living in poverty simply do not have access to regular dental check-ups. And so, when The Ottawa Mission opened what is now known as the DYMON Health Clinic back in 2007, it was fortunate to count Dr. Tom Harle among its dedicated team.
Dr. Harle (“call me Dr. Tom”) is a faith-inspired individual and dentist who believes in providing a helping hand whenever the opportunity presents itself, although his humility and good nature makes him uncomfortable being portrayed as an angel. Dr. Tom founded The Mission’s free dental clinic after years of volunteering abroad with Health Teams International (Canada) in such places as Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. “I was telling one my patients about our work and he said, ‘You know Tom, we have a lot of people in need here in Ottawa’ and I thought, yikes, that’s very convincing. If I can travel half way around the world to provide volunteer dental services, surely I can do that for the disadvantaged right here at home.”
Dr. Tom approached The DYMON Clinic’s founder Diane Morrison with an idea. “Tom,” Diane said, “how did you know we had just decided to open up a primary health clinic, and we’d set aside a room for a dental office?” A guiding angel, perhaps? He assembled a team to offer emergency, preventative, and restorative dental care. “As a prosthodontist in the city, I have a built-in network of referrals, and I could tap into that to encourage volunteers,” Dr. Tom says. “We started with 9, and it has grown ever since.” Dr. Tom now leads a team of over 100 volunteer dentists, denturists and hygienists, who treated 471 patients over the past year.
“I once asked a patient about why she came to us. ‘The hands of kindness’ was how she referred to the clinic,” Dr. Tom fondly recalls.
Please consider extending your kindness to help The Mission’s dental clinic. Your generosity can help bring healthy smiles to its patients.