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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Get the latest updates from our programs in the field internationally and here in the United States.  

  • Mobile Dental: New Van Arrives

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 21, 2015

    With its tooth-white sheen still glimmering even after a long road journey from Texas, the newest mobile dental clinic recently arrived at Medical Teams International's headquarters. 

    The addition of the fully outfitted mobile home means that MTI's fleet of dental clinics has reached 11. Right now, the van looks like a blank slate; but soon it will be wrapped in bright red and turned loose on the roads, where it will ferry volunteer dental workers to locations throughout Washington and serve the state's most vulnerable populations.

    Weighing in at more than 24,000 pounds and reaching 40 feet in length, the clinic is MTI’s largest. It’s also the most modern.

    The inside of the van is decked out with state-of-the-art equipment, which will help MTI serve thousands of in-need patients – people who can’t afford or don’t have access to dental care, who are hurting because of chronic pain. Thank you for your support growing the Mobile Dental Program to be able to reach the largest number of people in the community.

    Check out some of these photos of your support manifested.

    Mobile Dental Clinic MTI HQ
    The Mobile Dental clinic in MTI's parking lot on April 21.

    Mobile Dental clinic MTI HQ 2
    Have a seat! A look at one of the clinic's two chairs.

    Mobile Dental clinic MTI HQ 3
    ​The Mobile Dental Program serves more than 18,000 people in Oregon and Washington every year.

  • Mobile Dental Story: Mike Seeks Mobile Dental to Save

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 17, 2015


    Mobile Dental_Mike_April 2015


    When Mike's teeth begin hurting, he knows where he can turn.

    He's been to three Mobile Dental clinics over the past couple of years. They're resources he has learned to trust. The volunteer dentists onboard treat him with respect and dignity, he said, and he comes away knowing the job was done correctly. The most common problem that brings Mike to a mobile clinic is tooth pain, the result of decay. 

    Although Mike has a full-time job, he doesn't have employer-sponsored dental insurance. He first heard about Mobile Dental when his girlfriend suggested the program when the two were living near McMinnville, Ore. He went to one of the clinics and was blown away. He received terrific, professional care, he said.

    Since then, he's sought out mobile clinics to ease the sting of the pain in his mouth. Sometimes, it gets so bad he has trouble eating. 

    There's also the stigma of tooth decay. Mike doesn't feel comfortable smiling, or showing his teeth. He wants to feel more confident, and the extractions conducted at the Mobile Dental clinics are steps toward having higher spirits. He's willing to take the last steps himself.

    There's another reason he feels blessed to be a Mobile Dental patient. It allows him to save his money. He has long-term plans for his dental health, and he's socking away cash to ensure they happen. Soon, he hopes to replace his decayed or otherwise extracted teeth with dentures. 

    Thanks to your donations, Mike's dental pain is treated. Because of your generosity, he feels good about himself. And he'll have those dentures soon enough, because he's saving his own money for them.

    The reason is simple, he said: "I want to feel good about myself."

    Your donations to the Mobile Dental Program are deeply felt by those without insurance or access to dentists, as they go toward combatting the country's hidden health care crisis.
  • Dental Success Story: A Patient Becomes a Donor

    by Katie Carroll | Apr 15, 2015

    It's typical that a person will donate to a cause that has touched their life. It's not as typical that a beneficiary will become a donor in the very same day. That's just what happened recently at one of our mobile dental clinics in Oregon.

    At the monthly River of Life clinic in the rural town of Grants Pass, our volunteers have regularly provided dental care to a local man. He could not afford the $700 worth of dental work required to save his tooth, so his dentist arranged for him to be seen by the MTI clinic.

    This man was extremely appreciative of the van and that he was able to be seen on such short notice. He asked the volunteers how and why the van was there and how it is funded.

    After his successful tooth-saving procedure, he left the van and returned a half hour later with an envelope. He said that it wasn't much, but he wanted the dental program to have it so that we could come back and help others. That envelope contained $200.

    Thank you for your generous donations to our mobile dental program. Your gifts help our neighbors in their time of need.

  • Remembering Longtime MTI Partner Barry Birch

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 10, 2015

    When things looked low for Barry Birch and his Portland-based nonprofit, he was known to say three words: “God will provide.”

    For more than 20 years, Barry and his organization, Birch Community Services, acted as the hands and feet for collecting and sharing God's provisions. Since 1992, Birch Community Services (originally known as Birch Gleaning) has been a membership-based one-stop-shop for the working poor, doling out food and other items for a nominal fee. The organization also runs community gardens and provides classes to its members.

    Barry’s calling was to serve people in need. Because of that, he was a regular fixture at Medical Teams International, where in 1993 he started a partnership with the distribution center that would span the years.

    Sadly, Barry died on March 31. While he’s gone in body, his spirit and legacy live on.

    Barry Birch eulogy Birch Community Services
    Barry Birch, surrounded by a pack of furry friends.

    Those who worked closely with Barry at MTI remember him for gleaning in the truest Biblical sense. Nothing went to waste. And he was a genuine guy, warm and witty.

    “He would accept everything from food to clothing or other materials,” said Neil Gillenwater, who worked as MTI’s warehouse manager from 1997 to 2002. “Very seldom was there something he couldn’t use.”

    Barry was also a very appreciative man. In a 1999 letter to MTI, he wrote about what a difference the partnership between the two organizations made.

    “Thank you so much for sharing generously with Birch Gleaning,” he wrote. “Your donations have made a significant difference in the success of the organization.”

    He was a familiar face around the MTI warehouse, showing up on a weekly basis to see what he could put to use. It was there that he would talk to Gillenwater about his Bible studies or joke around. He always seemed chipper, Gillenwater said, because he seemed to know that God would provide.

    Learning of Barry's passing was a shock to many at MTI. He was at the MTI warehouse only a few weeks ago. But he will remain in our thoughts and prayers as a partner in the truest sense who touched innumerable lives. Birch Community Services will live on, as will MTI’s partnership with it.

    As The Oregonian reported in its obituary for Barry, the Birch family is planning a memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11 at Mountainview Christian Church. Remembrances may be made to the Barry Birch Memorial Fund at Birch Community Services.

  • Volunteer Story: Dr. Dale Canfield, Mobile Dental Volunteer

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 08, 2015


    Mobile Dental, work, Feb. 2015_Medical Teams International_Dr. Dale Canfield

    Dr. Dale Canfield and an assistant work on a patient's teeth during a Mobile Dental Clinic in February.

    Dr. Dale Canfield may be two years retired from his private dental practice, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his sense of purpose.

    His patient roster used to be exclusively composed of high-powered attorneys and real estate developers; now he provides care to disadvantaged populations as a volunteer for Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental Program, something he’s done for more than a decade.

    A 17-year MTI volunteer, Dr. Canfield has been on eight trips to Cambodia and has provided care to hundreds of low-income Oregonians. Twice a week he spends a shift on an MTI mobile clinic bus, fixing some of the worst dental destruction he’s ever seen. The tooth decay Canfield sees is caused by a variety of factors.

    Sometimes it’s the result of drug use among people who are trying to turn their lives around, kick the addiction and gain employment. Often, it’s because the closest clinic is too far away, and the patient can't afford reliable transportation. Almost all patients lack dental health insurance, including children. Many are homeless.  

    Whatever the reason, there’s a lot of work to be done combatting the country’s hidden health care need. “It’s changed my life,” Canfield said of his volunteerism.

    The patients he sees twice a week tug at his heart. He can’t believe the pain they’re in. Sometimes the agony is physical – searing pain shooting through their mouths. Other times, it’s psychological. These patients want to feel good about themselves and find work, but the first hurdle is fixing their teeth.

    What keeps Dr. Canfield going, aside from a sense of purpose?

    Canfield’s inspiration comes from his fellow volunteers, who have shown him what can be achieved through dedication and teamwork. One of his first trips to Cambodia brought him to an orphanage where he was part of a team providing dental services to parentless children. While there, two of his fellow volunteers said they would pay $1,500 apiece to put one of the orphans through dental school, if they could find one interested in the offer.

    As it so happened, there was one. And the volunteers made good on their promise, Canfield said. Not only did the child, now grown, complete dental school, he became part of MTI’s volunteer team in Cambodia. It is further proof of the self-perpetuating nature of philanthropy — how the act of giving inspires others to reciprocate the generosity.

    It’s a great feeling to be able to use the accumulated knowledge learned over a 55-year career to help those in need, Canfield said. Now in his 80s, he’s still going strong as a regular fixture at MTI’s Mobile Dental Clinics. He plans to continue volunteering for as long as he can.

    Volunteer today! MTI has volunteer opportunities both around the world and here at home, serving people affected by disaster, poverty and conflict. Find an opportunity for you today at MTI’s volunteer page. Thank you for your support!


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