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Dentistry Ohio

'Living' Article February 2011

Living

February 2011

 

The year is 1982.  At age 45 Norwich, CT orthodontist Dr. Jeremiah Lowney is enjoying a successful career and is widely respected within his community.  He is enjoying his family and the other abundant fruits of his labors when his life is changed with a diagnosis, a rare form of bladder cancer.  During his recovery from surgery and radiation treatment Dr. Lowney contemplated canceling his participation in a long-planned mission trip to Haiti.  Instead of canceling he leaned on an oral surgeon friend to help him brush up on his extraction skills.  He bundled up his supplies and instruments and set out for Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Port-au-Prince. 

Three years and twelve trips later Mother Teresa suggest to Dr. Lowney that he might consider moving his clinic to Jeremie, a city in southwest Haiti and home to 600,000 of the hemisphere’s poorest people.  “It seemed prophetic”, said Dr. Lowney, “going to a city with the same name as mine.”  What he found was an unimaginable community with a tiny, ill-equipped government hospital, no outpatient services, no running water and no electricity. 

Today, some 25 years later the hundreds of thousands of people in Jeremie and the surrounding villages fall beneath the comforting shade of the Haitian Health Foundation founded by Dr. Lowney.  He and his foundation look at health in a holistic sense.  Food, shelter, education, livestock, and general development are blended into the mix of general health care and maintenance. 

Dr. Lowney has retired from his orthodontic practice.  He makes quarterly trips to Haiti to make sure the wheels stay on the track but he spends most of his time in the HHF office he has set up in Norwich.  He raises money and writes grants in support of the foundation’s $3 million annual budget.   “I’m convinced that the worst poverty is hopelessness”, says Dr. Lowney, “waking up every morning lacking even the imagination to think tomorrow will ever be any better than today. “

This year Dr. Lowney has been recognized by the American Dental Association as winner of the ADA Humanitarian Award in recognition of his “individual volunteer commitment and leadership that has a broad impact on oral health and the improvement of the human condition”. 

I’m not sure what I would do if I were met with the cancer diagnosis that Dr. Lowney received back in 1982.  I would like to think that I too could still think beyond myself, to grasp that counter-intuitive notion that we find life through giving it away.  I’m humbled by Dr. Lowney’s story.  It has the power to encourage you and me to dream dreams about how we too might make the world a better and healthier place to call home. 

Visit www.HaitianHealthFoundation.org for more information concerning Dr. Lowney's outreach.

 

 

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