Dr. Tom Harle had spent almost 15 years offering his dental skills to some of the poorest people in the most remote corners of the world when he realized that he was needed just as badly at home – by the homeless people in our community.

So, in 2007 he established The Ottawa Mission’s volunteer-driven, no-cost dental clinic. Since then, the growth of this service has been remarkable. Dr. Harle estimates that, in its first five years of operation, nearly $1.2 million worth of services have been donated, and 5,000 people have been served.

The clinic offers a full range of care thanks to over 100 dental volunteers – all recruited by Dr. Harle – and 14 local dental labs that offer specialized off-site services. The program was honoured with the Canadian Dental Association’s 2011 Oral Health Promotion Award.

The clinic has a huge impact on those who are in pain, some of whom cannot even eat properly, and who haven’t had access to dental care in years. It also works wonders on building the self-esteem of the people it serves, and, in many cases, improves their chances of finding work.

As Dr. Harle says, “My colleagues and I are always humbled by the gratitude of the people who come to us for help. Giving people back their smiles is something that is very satisfying.” For all that he has accomplished, Dr. Harle is not about to stop making more of a difference. In 2012 he founded PODS – Portable (Ottawa) Dental Service, a mobile free clinic that serves at-risk, low-income expectant and single mothers and their children at various locations in our community.

It seems that Dr. Harle will always be “a man with a mission.”