McGill Alert / Alerte de McGill

Updated: Mon, 07/15/2024 - 16:07

Gradual reopening continues on downtown campus. See Campus Public Safety website for details.

La réouverture graduelle du campus du centre-ville se poursuit. Complément d'information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention.

Flossing in Fiji with Dr. Russell Taylor

Faculty of Dentistry graduate Dr. Russell Taylor, DMD’09, exemplifies McGill’s community spirit. When he’s not working at his practice in downtown San Francisco, Taylor devotes his time to public service. Locally, he serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco Dental Society and is a member of its Community Dental Health Committee. Taylor also volunteers for Project Homeless Connect, through which volunteers provide services to homeless and low-income San Franciscans. Twice a year he participates in California Dental Association Cares, in which teams of dentists provide free dental care to upwards of 2,000 patients during a weekend clinic set up in a stadium. “I really enjoy the clinic,” Taylor says, “It makes me feel really proud to be a part of dentistry.” The organizational skills he learns from these local events carry over to his other public service passion: international dental missions. Every year, he donates his time and resources to several weeks abroad treating patients in countries such as Fiji and Vietnam. These missions can be challenging. At home, Taylor has access to the latest technology; in Vietnam his patients had “a plastic chair and a bucket to spit into.” For the trip he carried all of his supplies with him and paid extra to get his equipment into the country. Local travel is far from luxurious, often done on boats or rickety buses. More than once all passengers would disembark so as to nudge water buffalo off the road, or to not overload a run-down bridge.

 Treatment occurred in places so remote that the locals had never seen a white person before, let alone knew of local anesthetic. “You numb them up and they think you’re a magician,” he says. “There were people who had been in pain for years and years, and I could fix that. It’s very rewarding.” Taylor credits McGill’s unique program with fostering his passion for service. A self-described “late bloomer, academically,” he was only admitted to Dentistry after his second application and worked hard once he got in. But from his first hands-on experience with polishing someone’s teeth, which, as with all students, was at one of McGill’s outreach clinics, he was hooked. I thought, “This is awesome, I can’t wait until I have my own practice!” he says. Taylor also benefited from the Faculty of Dentistry system whereby younger students are paired with more senior ones, then take the role of mentor the next year. “The enthusiasm just spreads down the line,” he says. During his fourth year, Taylor was marked by another McGill experience: he went on a Kindness in Action humanitarian mission to Ecuador with professor Veronique Benhamou. “She does this trip every year,” he says. “I look up to her so much.” Taylor says he keeps becoming more political and involved, looking for ways to facilitate the participation of other volunteers, and plans to train dentists abroad. “I hope that by spreading acts of kindness, others will be inspired to do the same,” he says.

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