In our inaugural #SmileStory, we interview Dr. Chad Fussell of South Georgia Dentistry in Douglas, Georgia about his volunteer work bringing smiles to communities in Haiti suffering from lack of access to dental care.
When did you start volunteering your dental services?
I began volunteering my dental services in my community of Coffee County after graduating from dental school. I think it’s important to help those in dental need in our own community and extend that same help to those in even greater dental need in Haiti.
How did you first get involved in Haiti?
I got involved in Haiti through our local church, GracePointe, that led a dental and VBS team that we joined to Baptists for Haiti in 2016. We were the first dental team that has served with Baptists for Haiti. We were also the first team that was allowed to take kids under 12. Our kids were 12 and 9 the first time we went as a family. We thought it was important to take our kids so that they were able to witness third world poverty. We want to lead our kids to continue to always spread the gospel and serve those in need. They fell in love with Haiti and can’t wait to go back each summer.
Where did you go in Haiti?
We served both mission trips in Leogane, at the Baptists for Haiti house. We went to different villages surrounding Leogane each day of the week long mission, to spread the gospel and serve the specific dental needs of each particular village.
What were the dental and public health conditions in Haiti?
Access to dental care in Haiti is extremely difficult. In the villages we served, their idea of dental care is having teeth extracted. Roughly only 10 to 15 percent of the people we treated had ever seen a dentist. Extracting teeth is what we spent the majority of time doing each day. There are 10 churches that Baptist for Haiti partner with. The pastors tell the people in their village that the dental team was coming, and Haitian people would walk miles and miles, wait all day without complaining, to be seen by the dentist.
How did the 2010 earthquake affect public health in the areas you visited?
I have no personal reference to what things were like before the earthquake. However, the devastation that the earthquake brought is still very obvious in Haiti. The center of the earthquake was in Leogane, where the Baptist for Haiti house is located. Luckily, it went undamaged. The earthquake devastated villages, and forced many people to live in tent cities with horrific living conditions. Many Haitians are still living in those tent houses, which continues to bring a multitude of health problems.
Any success stories you would like to share?
On our first trip to Haiti in 2016, we met a young boy named Louvensky. A previous medical team had evaluated Louvensky and he had a large, swollen area in his lower jaw. They felt it was an abscessed tooth. The medical team advised Louvensky’s uncle to see the upcoming dental team. After examining Louvensky, Dr. Fender and I were concerned that he could possibly have a tumor instead of an abscess because of the clinical presentation. We decided the best course of treatment was to get a radiograph of the area to figure out exactly what we were dealing with.
After our mission trip, we continued to work with Baptist for Haiti to get a panoramic radiograph on Louvensky. We found out how tough it is to get access to dental care in Haiti through this experience. After getting a picture of the radiograph sent to us, and consulting with several oral surgeons, we came to the conclusion that Louvensky has osteomyelitis. This was caused from a long standing infection in one of his teeth. Upon arrival in Haiti this past July, we were able to reconnect with Louvensky and extract the infected tooth. We also treated some of his other dental needs. His Uncle brought him to the Baptist for Haiti house as soon as we arrived, and he stayed with us all week. Our son, as well as several other young boys on the trip, developed a great friendship with Louvensky. We can’t wait to see him again this coming summer.
Do you have a mentor or fellow dentist that inspires you to give back?
Dr. Steve Wilkerson and Dr. Dana Fender. Dr. Wilkerson is my business partner and friend in his own dental practice. Dr. Dana Fender is a local orthodontist and long time friend of Dr. Fussell’s. Both of them inspired me to donate my services as they have served on several dental mission trips overseas. Dr. Fender also served with me on my 2016 dental mission to Haiti.
What advice would you give to other dentists looking to give back?
Start with your own community. There are so many ways to give back in your own community, and sometimes…those opportunities turn into something much bigger.
If you would like to help support our next trip, please visit the Baptists for Haiti website and donate.
—- About Dr. Fussell —-
Dr. Chad Fussell is a 2003 graduate of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When Nova admitted its charter class of dental students in August of 1997, it became the first new school of dental medicine to open in the United States in 24 years, therefore leading its students to learn the dentistry profession using the most advanced technology to date. While obtaining his degree in General Dentistry, Dr. Fussell has taken numerous continuing education courses in implant dentistry, as he regularly places and restores implants in our practice. Dr. Fussell also recently got trained in Invisalign, clear aligners that are custom made to give his patients the straight smile they have always desired. Dr. Fussell continues to enrich his education by attending seminars on the most advanced dentistry.
Prior to his dental education, Dr. Fussell attended Georgia Southern University on a baseball scholarship. Dr. Fussell graduated Cum Laude and earned his B.A. in Chemistry, with a minor in Biology.
Dr. Fussell serves his profession and his community by being an active member of the following: American Dental Association, Georgia Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, and by being an active member of GracePointe Church in Douglas.
Dr. Fussell joined the practice with Dr. Wilkerson in June, 2003. Dr. Fussell’s goal is to educate and promote the oral health of his patients, giving the best quality care possible. He is fortunate to be a partner with Dr. Wilkerson and their highly talented and qualified staff.
Outside of dentistry, he enjoys spending time with his family, as well as many outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing. Dr. Fussell resides in Douglas, GA with his wife, Amie, and their two children, Sydnie and Ben.