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Fishers travel to Belize on dental-themed mission trip


MADRID — Dr. Stephen D. Fisher may have retired and sold his dental practice, but he has yet to perform his last oral surgery, thanks to the Belize Mission Project.

“It’s a Christian-based mission trip,” Dr. Fisher said.

He and his wife were joined by 40 other people from the United States on a trip last fall to provide free dental and medical care to people in Belize.

“There were 14 dentists, three nurses, a physician, four dental hygienists, two dental lab technicians, an audiologist and several other dental assistants and general workers,” Dr. Fisher said.

Dr. Fisher, who operated practices in Potsdam, Ogdensburg and Massena for 32 years, retired and sold his practice to Dr. Lee Akin in March 2011, but he said he knew that his dental career was not over.

“I wanted to use my God-given talents to help others,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go provide treatments to people in an unserved area.”

During their weeklong stay in Belize, Dr. Fisher and his wife, Deborah L., stayed on the island of Ambergris Cay.

During the day, Dr. Fisher saw patients in a clinic set up by participants in San Pedro’s Lions Den, the local Lions Club.

“It was pretty primitive,” Dr. Fisher said.

He said that they had no X-ray equipment, and that many of their tools were powered by a scuba tank.

“Normally, you wouldn’t be working in such an open area. It’s a bit different than dental care in the United States,” Dr. Fisher said. “When you’re used to working in your private office with two staff members, it took a while to get used to people staring at you.”

Dr. Fisher said he and his wife were responsible for bringing all of their own equipment and supplies.

“I did mostly extractions,” he said. For patients with more serious needs, he issued referrals to an orthodontist on the mainland.

Each day, he would see 20 to 30 patients.

Mrs. Fisher’s days were a bit longer. She was part of a team that included several dental hygienists who visited schools in Belize and taught children the importance of good dental care.

“I was on a plane every day by 7 a.m. flying back to the mainland,” Mrs. Fisher said. “Every child got a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste and a fluoride treatment.”

More than 2,400 toothbrushes were distributed.

Toward the end of the week, once their dental work was complete, Dr. Fisher and his wife participated in what they called “a beans and rice program.” Participants on the trip donated money toward the purchase of 100-pound bags of beans and rice that were split into smaller bags and distributed from door to door as part of food packages that also included fruit and potatoes.

“In Belize there were some beautiful houses, and there was some extreme poverty,” Mrs. Fisher said.

Mrs. Fisher said there was one thing that stood out about the people of Belize, regardless of their situation.

“They were all happy and very friendly,” she said. “The children were very respectful.”

Dr. and Mrs. Fisher enjoyed the experience so much, they already have made plans to return.

“It was a great trip. The people were tremendous,” Dr. Fisher said.

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