Dr. Milord Inspires Peers as 2022 Humanitarian Award Winner

  • by AGD Staff
  • Feb 6, 2023
2-6-23_MemberSpotlight_BThe AGD Humanitarian Award is presented to a dentist who contributes voluntary service in conjunction with a consistent commitment to enhancing the image of general dentistry through the continuous delivery of quality dental care. The 2022 award winner, Fabiola Milord, DDS, FAGD, takes this to the next level by serving as a catalyst and inspiration for many of her peers to participate in voluntary service. She spoke with AGD Impact about the importance of using her time, skills and resources to contribute to the greater good and about what motivates her.

AGD Impact: What drew you to humanitarian service, and how has service impacted your career? 

Milord: I must admit that, in the early days of practice, I was not in love with my career. It seemed to be only about working in order to pay student loans. I couldn’t even afford to move out of my parents’ home! Then, about three years after graduating, I was approached by the Max Cadet Dental Foundation about donating dental services at its newly built clinic in Haiti. The gratitude and appreciation shown by the community afterward was overwhelming. It hit me that I was in a position of privilege and didn’t even appreciate it. From then on, I looked at dentistry differently, and humanitarian service became sewn into the fabric of who I am. As word got out about what I was able to accomplish, I was approached by other organizations. This not only offered the chance to treat some of the most marginalized people in the most remote locations under extreme conditions, but also to reconnect with dentistry and what it has to offer. Additionally, humanitarian work inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in public health. I knew how to perform as an individual, but it was time to learn how to best perform in a community setting. There was more to learn, and I made it my mission to be a part of the solution as much as I possibly could.

Why is it important for dentists to engage in humanitarian service? 

Humanitarian service is more than just performing dentistry. It’s about changing people’s lives. It’s about diversity of people and culture. It’s about the underbelly of the human condition and what contributions you make to improve it. It’s about pushing yourself to the limit to see how far you can go without the luxury of technology and modern equipment. It’s about a rediscovery of self that you will experience nowhere else. It’s about impacting those who would otherwise go without. 

How do you inspire other dentists to join you in volunteering? What are common obstacles dentists face in humanitarian service, and what advice do you have to overcome them? 

Inspiring other dentists is about promoting the work and the accomplishments that go with it. It’s about encouraging others to help a stranger the best way you can in relieving his or her pain and suffering. It’s about extolling the art and science of dentistry by highlighting your skills. Only you can do it. No one else can. The most common obstacle is fear. There’s fear of losing income by closing the office in order to take time off, fear of traveling to a strange locale, fear of the lack of resources, fear of failure and fear of the unknown. My reassurance is to not overthink. Begin the work, and, as you progress through the process, all of those fears go away. You become so immersed, it’s hard to stop, and it’s hard to imagine not doing what needs to be done. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced when coordinating and/or completing your mission work? Was there ever a time that made you feel as though you wanted to give up? 

The greatest challenge has always been the lack of modern resources. The comfort level you’re used to in a well-equipped office is nonexistent. Everything is portable. If one thing breaks down, that sets the mission back tremendously. Time lost can never be regained. With people camped around the venue for days in order to be seen, having traveled for miles, everything has to go in an orderly and organized manner. Chaos can set in, so we try to mitigate that in the preplanning stages as much as possible. Border crossings and airport customs are particularly difficult. Transporting supplies, medicine and equipment can be burdensome, especially for a large group. Turning people away at the end of a mission is truly disheartening. Not everyone can be seen. We run out of either time or supplies. You always wish you could have done more. 

What is your process to determine where to go or work during your mission trips? 

When a call comes from an organization, safety is always the No. 1 determinant of where to go and work. A good sponsor will have already vetted the locale; however, doing your own research also helps. I prefer to work in areas where I have never had the privilege of visiting. I enjoy new places and new cultures and having a novel experience every time. 

Describe a time during your humanitarian service when you felt like you were on the right path. 

The best example of being on the right path during humanitarian service is when I travel with the next generation of dentists — students. The joy, enthusiasm and appreciation they seem to have for the people they’re serving while under extreme conditions — without complaining — brings renewed perspective and such a sense of satisfaction. It reemphasizes that this is what I was meant to do. Transferring the enthusiasm of service to others is one of the best gifts humanitarian work has to offer.