Tabasamu, which means “smile” in Swahili, is a dental outreach project that was founded by Dr. Edward (Trey) Wilson in 2004. Its mission is to provide free dental education and preventative dental care to underserved communities in developing countries. Tabasamu also provides an international outreach opportunity for volunteers who are interested in learning about other cultures and donating their time, energy and goodwill to others.
Tabasamu’s first mission was to Kitale, Kenya in 2004. In partnership with the Anglican Church of Kenya Diocese of Kitale, Mwamba Church Ministries International and local dental professionals, Tabasamu provided a free dental clinic to members of the Kitale community. As a result of that experience, Tabasamu realized that some of the dental challenges faced by the community could be met if the young people could be treated with sealants and fluoride, and if the young people (as well as the adults in the community) had a better understanding of proper oral hygiene and diet, that prevent health disease. Tabasamu responded by creating its Tooth Tours program, which is a mobile educational program that seeks to educate school children on the benefits and techniques of proper oral hygiene and a low-sugar diet. Tabasamu hopes that the information shared during Tooth Tour presentations can continue to be shared and spread. Tabasamu now also conducts seminars that are designed to give local teachers advanced training to help them educate their students in the style of the Tooth Tours, thereby continuing our mission. Tabasamu also seeks to continue to provide young people with sealant and fluoride treatments, which will greatly diminish the amount of tooth decay they experience.
To date, Tabasamu has sent teams, as large as 18 participants, to Kenya, Guatemala and Haiti and served hundreds of individuals in free dental clinics, taught thousands of young people in primary and secondary schools and educated hundreds of teachers. Tabasamu teams are comprised of dental professionals and non-professionals. Dentists, dental assistants and trained laypersons participate in the clinics and Tooth Tours.
The Need for Tabasamu?
Poor oral health has a profoundly adverse affect on the lives and productivity of individuals. Dental hygiene and dental education are topics that get very little attention in most developing countries. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that developing countries, including the countries that have been served by Tabasamu, suffer from a lack of dental professionals. For example, Kenya has only one dentist for every 60,000 Kenyans. Kitale, Kenya is no different. With a population of over 300,000, Kitale has only 3 dentists, and for most Kenyans any dental care is prohibitively expensive. Knowledge of available dental resources is poor and dental services most often accessed are emergent (e.g., treatment for infections and extractions) rather than preventative (e.g., cleanings, sealant and fluoride treatment, and education). Guatemala and Haiti suffer from the same dearth of dental professionals. Each of these countries needs quality, affordable dental care. In the absence of that, they can certainly benefit from the preventative and education that will minimize the need for dental services. Tabasamu seeks to provide this preventative care, through the application of sealants and fluoride, and the kind of oral hygiene and diet education that will have a lasting positive impact on the overall oral and general health of a community.
Tabasamu Advisory Group
Kyle Evans has been committed to local, national and international outreach for most of her life. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she witnessed first hand the social injustices of the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras. Kyle functioned as Director of Youth & Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Church, Solebury, Pennsylvania for ten years. Since 2005, Kyle has also demonstrated strong international community development involvement in health and education in the Kitale Diocese of Kenya through Mwamba Church Ministries International. It was Kyle’s first experience in Kenya that led to her partnership with Dr. Trey Wilson and the development of Tabasamu. Kyle’s growing commitment to international community based outreach culminated in a year of service as a Missioner in Haiti in 2008/9. Tabasamu joined her there for two initiatives in March and May 2009.
Lisa Green is a marketing and nonprofit consultant in New York City. She recently retired after a 20-plus year career as a telecommunications marketing executive at Verizon. She has worked in the IT industry for over 25 years having begun with Westchester County as a telecommunications procurement professional. Lisa received a B.A. from the University of Maryland in political science and a certification in grant-making and philanthropy from New York University. Throughout her career, Lisa has balanced her professional life with her outside interest in non-fiction writing, and for over 10 years wrote alongside a group of writers from the New School University. Her involvement in community outreach and the nonprofit sector is a source of great satisfaction and she considers her work with Tabasamu among the most gratifying.
Otho Kerr is a partner at EKO Asset Management Partners, which is a specialized investment firm focused on discovering and monetizing unrealized or unrecognized environmental assets. Otho has worked in the investment banking and asset management industries for over twenty years, having begun with Goldman Sachs & Co., where he worked in the Investment Banking Division. He began his professional career as an attorney with the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Otho received a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from The Harvard Law School. Throughout his career, Otho has sought to merge his professional career with his interest in social justice. He was a fellow in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership Program. Otho received the Dartmouth Alumni Award in 2007. Otho has been part of Tabasamu from the very beginning.
Dr. Gary Rabinowitz
Dr. Rabinowitz has been in private practice in New York City since 1988. He has advanced training in smile design, cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry, and dental implantology. He considers dentistry to be a blend of science and art. Gary is a graduate of The State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Dental Medicine where he received his D.D.S. He earned the Delta Sigma Delta, Victor B. Fumia and George B. Snow Awards for excellence in Operative and Prosthetic Dentistry. Gary makes patient education a core component of his practice. Gary is a member of the American Dental Association, The New York County Dental Society, and The New York Dental Forum. He has served as faculty at NYU College of Dentistry and University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. Tabasamu’s mission allows Gary to merge his clinical skills and his passion to educate to empower underserved populations to promote enduring oral healthcare in their communities.
Dr. Trey Wilson
Dr. Trey Wilson is the founder of Tabasamu. Trey has been a private practice dentist in Manhattan since 1984. Trey focuses on comprehensive and cosmetic care, with a totally holistic approach to health. He believes there should be elements of coaching, teaching and encouraging with his patients to help each maximize the potential for total wellness. He recently opened another practice in New Hope, Pa. Trey has a B.A. in chemistry and French from Miami University, and a D.D.S. from The Ohio State University. He founded Tabasamu in 2004. For his work, in 2007, he was the third person ever to be named a CNN Hero for his “dedication to the enhancement of human health.” In 2009, he co-founded Earthrise, a group of dentists that meet regularly to learn how to enhance the balance of joy and purpose in both their personal and professional lives.