Divine intervention led Mark Boarini to open dental clinicIt’s hard not to be discouraged when vacation plans falls apart. But Antioch dentist Mark Boarini found unusual inspiration - maybe even divine intervention - in a last-minute change of plans.
A 1993 graduate of the Loyola University Dental School, Dr. Boarini will soon open a four-chair dental clinic on the Rosebud reservation of the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota. He’s worked the last four years with his brother and father – both dentists – and the St. Frances Mission collecting donations to establish the only oral healthcare outlet many of the reservation’s residents have ever seen.
It started when a planned hunting trip to Wyoming fell apart at the last minute, and the three dentists hurriedly changed gears. A friend was called and accommodations secured at the St. Francis Mission. Fr. John Hatcher, the Jesuit priest who runs the mission at the center of the reservation, would be their host.
And so it was over dinner with their host one evening that Dr. Boarini learned about life on the reservation. It is among the poorest counties in the United States; residents lack jobs and self-esteem. The rate of teenage suicide is high, and the mission serves for many as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and a battered women’s shelter.
With three dentists at the dinner table, the conversation inevitably turned to oral health: the locals receive little or no dentistry on the reservation. The nearest medical center is an hour away. Patients go every morning and wait to be seen, likely for an extraction; if it’s busy, they may be asked to come back another day.
Dr. Boarini went hunting with his brother and father as planned the next day, but during conversation plans for a dental clinic at the St. Francis Mission took shape.
There was a vacant administrative building on the mission property; the small offices behind the reception area could easily be converted to operatories. Gently used equipment was collected from friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues and others who were renovating offices or retiring. Donations were stored in a garage until someone could drive them up north.
The only thing missing now is a dentist. Educational agreements will occasionally put dental students from Creighton and St. Louis universities in the clinic, but Dr. Boarini is looking for volunteers to staff the clinic for as short or as long as vacation time allows. You’ll have either a 14-hour road trip from Chicago or a two-hour drive after your flight into Pierre, SD. Bring a good book and maybe plan to see Mt. Rushmore, Dr. Boarini said. You’ll work busy days and have the satisfaction of making good friends.
“I don’t have a sales pitch. This is pure charity, something you do only out of the goodness of your heart,” Dr. Boarini said. “It’s the same reason why people went to Haiti, where it’s pretty rough.”
For more information, please email Dr. Boarini. Learn about the St. Francis Mission online at www.sfmission.org.
Ms. Brown is the CDS senior writer.