Dentist Cecile Sebastian says it’s like pulling teeth sometimes to recruit volunteers to help out in the community.
Sebastian is a wife, mother of three girls and a full-time dentist with her own downtown practice - and she still makes time to donate her services in the community. She volunteers two Wednesdays a month at the Aloha Medical Mission clinic, where medical and dental services are available to patients with no insurance, or who are below poverty level.
“The patients are so unbelievably thankful - more so sometimes than our regular patients,” Sebastian says. “One patient sang a song from the Little Mermaid to thank me. It made us all cry.”
The Philippine native and former San Francisco resident has been volunteering for three years at the clinic, where many of the patients are immigrants. Sometimes, she says, there are language barriers.
“We show the mirror to make sure we are both talking about the right tooth,” she explains. “We also have lots of sign language, nodding and shaking heads.”
The Aina Haina resident also is one of many dentists who give free screenings in the yearly Give Kids a Smile project, sponsored by the Hawaii Dental Samaritans. In the comfort of her office, she gives free dental care with Donated Dental Services to two new patients a year who are handicapped and below poverty level. The National Institute of Dental Health sponsors anything that needs to be done. Several of the handicapped patients come to the appointments with their social workers.
“One of the good things is that since we’re volunteering, sometimes the labs donate their services too,” notes Sebastian. “It feels so good to help others.”
There’s very little free time, but if and when there is, Sebastian enjoys running. Although she only started last year, she’s now running three to four times a week to train for her first marathon ever - the Honolulu Marathon - next month. She reads books for advice on her training since, she says, she’s too slow to train with a group.
She also pitches in as a soccer coach and Star of the Sea Church Sunday school teacher for her children, Chloe, 11, Claire, 10, and Calais, 7. Her husband, Wade Nobuhara, also a dentist, is another active volunteer, serving as the president of the Hawaii Dental Association.
“It makes your life a little busier, but the children understand,” she says. “We want them to know you have to give back.”
- Linda Dela Cruz
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