A dentist who has practiced in several communities in northwestern Ontario has just returned from his most recent humanitarian trip to Jamaica, the country where he was born and raised.
Dr. Derval Clarke has made five trips to the island nation as part of humanitarian efforts by the group Jamaica Dental Mission, a group that sends dentists and dental students to the Caribbean country each year to help provide service for people who are too poor to access it any other way.
"Depending on where you are, whether it's in the city or in the country, you're just going to find a lot of decay, pain, infections — general dental problems," he told CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning on Friday.
The most severe case Clarke said he's seen was a teenage girl who had a large abscess for over a year.
"The child had been waiting until we came back to be able to access dental care," he said.
"I think about the number of days that she would have missed school because of pain, I think about the meals she'd have missed because of pain," he continued.
"I think about the general lack of confidence that child would have, having to walk around an entire year with swelling that comes and goes."
'It pulls at your heartstrings'
Doing this kind of work comes with significant rewards, Clarke said.
"I, myself, was alarmed by the poverty rate," he said, even though he grew up in Jamaica. "I was aware of poverty, I myself, was by no means rich but when I go back each year, you really get a sense of how poor some of my countrymen are."
"It pulls at your heartstrings," he said. "It's also very rewarding work to be able to help."
Even though his efforts are designed to brighten smiles, Clarke acknowledged the work he performs can be very painful.
"For the most part, I do create some smiles in Jamaica," he said. "But I do, unfortunately, create some tears as well whe I have to treat little babies or toddlers."