Donating dental skills

Something is going on behind the scenes at Dr Mario Garita’s famed dental clinic that should make Ticos (Costa Ricans) proud to be Ticos. He is quietly bringing good will to the forefront of his practice, and I believe his actions serve as an excellent model for other dental surgeons and business owners to follow. I am suggesting that business owners consider taking what I will refer to here as ‘the Garita Challenge’ – donating time, dental care and whatever else they can to those who need it most.
Dr Juan Alvarado, a dental surgeon and cosmetic dentist who has worked side by side with Dr Garita for many years, said: “I have seen Dr Garita help many people over the years and now he is encouraging our staff to do the same (and offering to subsidise our efforts)! It is inspiring and always reminds me of how lucky we really are.”
When I asked Dr Garita if he would share a little about his charitable nature, he explained: “We are very fortunate and privileged to do what we do here as dentists treating dental tourists. People travel thousands of miles to have us restore their smiles. What could be more rewarding than that? And having them return time and time again is humbling.” When I asked him why he seems so happy, he said pointedly: “I love what I do for living, and love what we do here at the Clinic.” And he continued: “We work hard, but we are rewarded every day with the results of our work.”
I questioned him as to why he encourages his employees to give back to the people. He responded: “Our job is fixing smiles, but we realise that many people we see in our daily lives are not smiling for one reason or another. Some are hungry, others homeless, and many are helpless. Often these people have terrible oral hygiene and severe dental issues. It is bad for them, and it is shameful for our society if we do not try to assist. So, we are offering a little help; a little help that we believe means a lot.”
I asked Dr Garita if he thinks his company will benefit from his charitable actions. He said: “I believe doing so will be good for everyone who participates and will benefit our employees as well. After all, few things feel as good as helping those in need.” Asked whether he believes other dental clinics and business owners will do the same, he said: “I realise that not all companies will make this type of commitment, but hopefully some will. The more, the merrier!” He continued: “We realise that many people would do this willingly if they had the time and resources to do so. But the sad truth is most people do not. Most people are employees, so it falls upon we business owners to lead the way. Priscilla [his wife, Dr Priscilla Rojas] and I decided we will pick up the tab to restore one person’s smile per month through the end of the year to see how things go; and we will also encourage and support our staff to do volunteer work outside the clinic. We know these are small gestures, but it will help. And hopefully it will inspire others to pay it forward as well.”
In a company like Garita’s clinic with about 20 employees, this help can really add up. If each employee dedicates just one hour per month, that can add up to about 200 man/woman hours per year of volunteer work. Doing the math, it is easy to see how one small company can make a difference. But what will really make the idea pay off is if other small business owners follow Dr Garita’s lead and implement similar programmes.
All in all, there are thousands of dentists in Costa Rica, and thousands more support personnel in their clinics. And this is just one small industry. We hope other industry leaders consider giving a little something back to the Costa Rican community, if they don’t do so already. Let’s show our brothers and sisters across the globe that a difference can be made. I humbly ask all business owners here in Costa Rica to please consider taking the Garita Challenge. Let’s show the world that Costa Rica leads in more than just clean energy, sports fishing, bird-watching and natural beauty!

For more information on how to implement a programme like this in your company, please contact and he will gladly assist.

About the author
Dental tourism expert Howards Siegler, Johns Hopkins M.B.A., resides in Costa Rica. He is international patient co-ordinator for Dr Mario Garita and his clinic The Dental Experience, and also a medical correspondent for The Costa Rica News. He has served as a consultant to the travel and tourism industry for more than 20 years, and helps those in need around the globe obtain quality, affordable dental care.