Laurie graduated from the dentistry program at University of Toronto in 1985 and ran her own solo practice in Bracebridge from 1987 until 2012. She now associates in a dental practice in Orillia part time as well as providing dental services once a month for an Indigenous community in the Georgian Bay region. She has also worked in the Remote Indigenous Communities in Northern Ontario.
In her own community, Laurie served on the board for Muskoka Family Youth and Child Services, as well as the board for South Muskoka Memorial Hospital. She is currently President of Muskoka Simcoe Dental Society and a member of The Council of the Ontario Dental Association.
Since 2012, Laurie has been a part of over 20 international volunteer dental projects; the last four projects were ones which she personally organized and led. She has also been actively involved with local volunteer dental initiatives in Toronto, Haliburton, Barrie and Orillia. She was responsible for organizing a Free Dental Day for women from local shelters in the Orillia office she currently associates in.
Many of you are aware that I have been engaged in volunteer dental projects internationally since 2012. (I have also been involved with local projects to service the underprivileged in my own area).
In the past, I was working with several different charitable organizations. In fact, for a short period, I was actually the Chair of one of these organizations. Unfortunately, I soon found out that proper governance procedures were not being carried out and financial transparency was lacking. There were also ethical considerations in the way in which the work was being delivered which left me troubled. Consequently, I resigned and severed ties with that organization.
The average cost of a dental mission to the volunteer with an NGO (non-governmental organization) for places such as Haiti and Guatemala for 7 to 8 days is between $3000 – $3400 CDN. This is a serious deterrent for many individuals who want to provide their professional services to impoverished communities but find the volunteer experience prohibitively expensive. Because I have acquired all the necessary equipment and supplies, and because I handle all the logistics and administration of these trips, I am able to keep the costs to roughly half that amount or less (pre-Covid).
As a result of this, I now lead my own projects and continue to do my best to keep the costs down for the volunteers, who I already admire for taking time off work, and time away from their families. The volunteers only pay for their flights, accommodation, food, and on ground transportation. I have purchased three mobile dental units and all the necessary equipment and supplies to perform restorative dentistry (both composite and amalgam fillings), simple and complicated surgical extractions, endodontic treatment (root canal therapy, which is necessary when the nerve system of a tooth has become contaminated), and scalers and an ultrasonic unit for heavy dental cleaning. Some of the items have been generously donated by dental companies, suppliers, and/or friends in the dental community who are aware of my ongoing projects.
I believe in treating the individuals I serve with respect and compassion. I therefore feel very strongly about delivering dentistry with instruments that have undergone proper sterilization. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a major Canadian dental company donate three refurbished sterilizers to this end. I do my best to deliver First World dentistry to the Third World countries I serve.
I only take small teams with individuals who are committed to the volunteer work on these projects. While we usually have one or two days of rest to actually acquire some background culture from the countries we visit, “voluntourism” is not something I believe in. These experiences can be fulfilling for the volunteers on a personal level. However, the objective remains to deliver healthcare to those in need and health education to create sustainable positive change.