Posted by Michele McKinnon
Over the past 12 years, Ian and Anne Doyle have logged a lot of miles. They have done so by helping others in some very remote areas of the world. Over this time, they have been involved in 10 international missions providing dental treatments, supplies, equipment, and mentorship in areas where help was requested and is desperately needed.  
 
Ian is a member of the Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club. In July 2020, he will become District Governor of 45 Rotary Clubs in P.E.I., N.S., Newfoundland and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Ian and Anne’s dedication to Rotary is evident as they both take on this new responsibility.   They have truly lived Rotary’s motto of “service above self.”
 
Over the past decade, Ian and Anne have travelled to Guyana, Peru, Nicaragua, Haiti and Honduras. Each mission has been supported financially by the Sunrise Club. Their support has also helped to leverage funds from other Rotary Clubs. Through Ian’s dental connections, the International College of Dentists, the Cape Breton Island Dental Society and the Dental Assistants of Cape Breton have all contributed.   
 
It all started about 12 years ago, when a fellow Rotarian urged Ian to “just do it now” when they began planning their first mission...

 
Their focus has been on bringing much needed dental services and equipment to areas in desperate need. The missions have also focused on teaching younger professionals new skills—an aspect that Ian particularly enjoys. The missions have included local dentists, auxiliaries and even their own children and daughter-in-law who are physicians. Most recently, in May, Ian was asked to mentor some medical residents from Maine while on a medical mission in Honduras.
 
The conditions they face when delivering care can be challenging. Often, the demands far out pace their capacity to deliver—but they do their best to provide as much as possible in whatever area they’re visiting. The facilities are very basic. Sometimes there is no electricity, so they travel with a portable generator. In some areas, they travel from village to village providing much needed care. 
 
“Some people criticize us and ask why we aren’t doing more at home,” Ian says. “The fact is, we do help out at home in various ways. We are keenly aware how profound the needs are in both areas, so we do our best.” 
 
To prepare, they work with local governments, health boards, church groups and non-governmental agencies. During one recent mission, local governments supplied two military armed guards to travel with them. “We have never felt unsafe,” said Ian, “but having them with us gave us extra security to be sure.”  
 
In Honduras, Ian set up three tables as operatories so he could move among them and interact with the local professionals and new graduates. In this way, they can see as many patients as possible and facilitate skills and information transfer. Treatment ranges from providing sealants, fluoride, treating decay and providing dental surgery when possible. “Dental problems in these areas are quite common,” said Ian, “and the more equipment we can leave behind, and skills we can transfer to locals, the better.” 
 
Ian is quick to point how valuable Anne’s participation has been on their missions.  “Everything from registering the patients, translating assisting and teaching children and adults good oral hygiene, help to make the clinics run as smoothly as possible. “Anne starts the registration process, I can then triage, and the clinics really run quite well."
 
Anne remembers one patient from Guyana in particular. “Robinson was about 13 years old.  He hung around the clinic on our last day as we were packing up. He could speak very little English, and didn’t enter the clinic, but she could see in his eyes he was in pain and was seeking help.  Anne asked if Ian could look at him before they left. When Ian looked in his mouth he could see an abscess tooth, but there was something more.
 
Robinson kept pointing deeper in his throat, and when Ian looked closer, he could see a fish bone was lodged in his tonsil. With Robinson’s head on his lap, Ian was able to remove it as well remove the abscess tooth.  “He left with a smile on his face, and no more pain in his eyes,” said Ian. “That’s the kind of experience that draws you back.”  
 
Anne says the missions embody everything that she and Ian are about. “We work with like-minded people, we’re visiting new countries, we’re out in nature and we’re helping those who truly need it.”  
 
A medical-dental mission to Armenia is now being investigated, as is a Rotary Foundation grant. Before then, Ian and Anne will be busy fulfilling the role and the myriad responsibilities that comes with taking on the role of District Governor. Ian modestly estimates the impact their missions have had on the people they touch.  “I think we may have changed some lives for the better,” says Ian. We’re sure the smiles they have brought to their patients’ faces—particularly Robinson’s-- would attest to that fact.