Dr. Nora Harmsen, DDS

Kyle Galdeira
Wednesday - May 25, 2011
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Photo courtesy Nora Harmsen

From one small island to another, Dr. Nora Harmsen, DDS, makes it a point to help those in need of dental care. Whether it’s taking care of a patient at her Lanai clinic or helping a young child in the Marshall Islands nearly 1,500 miles away to practice better dental hygiene despite rampant poverty, Harmsen is responsible for generating healthy smiles that overcome any language barrier or cultural boundary.

Harmsen, along with the help of additional volunteers, recently completed her seventh mission to the Marshall Islands. On the trip earlier this year, the mission aided 393 patients who received a combined 285 fillings, 237 tooth extractions, 77 cleanings, 500 toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes - all amounting to a total of nearly $123,000 in care given to those in need for no charge.

“We don’t just go there to pull teeth,” says Harmsen of the misconceptions commonly associated with similar missions. “We do fillings, cleaning and apply coatings to prevent cavities.”

The mission targets children in the third grade, and in addition to helping prevent tooth decay, Harmsen says that their efforts also aid in getting the children to grow accustomed to taking care of their teeth while also quelling any fears related to visiting the dentist.

“Because I’ve done it over the last seven years, I get more out of it than I can explain,” she says. “I feel so good that I can help the kids and hear their little ‘thank yous.’”

The mission is made possible thanks to the support of the Rotary Club of Wahiawa-Waialua that helps Harmsen and her husband David Bramlett, a retired Army general, to solicit donations - both monetary and dental supplies. Continental Airlines covers the travel costs, including the more than 500 pounds of equipment and supplies necessary for the mission. And Bramlett’s military connections made it possible for the volunteers to stay at a military base while in the islands.

“They are our island neighbors, and it’s a neat project that’s grown over the years,” Harmsen says. For more information or to donate, visit WahiawaWaialuaRotary.org

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