Oakland Township Dentist Ventures to Honduras
Donald Zelazny was one of 13 volunteers who traveled to Honduras to provide locals free medical and dental care through the non-profit group Cape Cares.
This summer Dr. Donald Zelazny of Oakland Township prepared for another week of work. He was getting ready to do something he finds very fulfilling, something he’s been doing for 25 years: taking care of people’s teeth.
But this particular week was different.
Two machine gun-toting police officers guarded the clinic Zelazny was stationed at. The doctor had to choose which patient’s mouth was the most critical, knowing he wouldn’t be able to address the more than 500 patients that arrived by foot, some traveling more than four hours.
“Everyone who participates on a trip like this comes home personally fulfilled and with a greater appreciation of how lucky we are here in the U.S. The smiles, even if numb and lopsided, on the patients’ faces were heartwarming,” Zelazny said.
Cape Cares has been sending teams of volunteers to Honduras since
the group was founded by a Massachusetts dentist in 1988. This summer, Dr. Zelazny traveled to Los Encinitos, which is about 40 miles south of the Honduran Capital, Tegucigalpa.
“An experience like that reminds you of how fortunate we are in this country to have medical and dental care so much more accessible than in other places in the world,” said Zelazny. “I am already looking forward to going back to help.”
The dental health of most people in Honduras is vastly different from people in more developed countries such as the United States. Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease is rampant. The Cape Cares dentists determine which treatment is most critical by asking patients "Which teeth hurt the MOST?"
“The only dental care the majority of the Honduran people receive is through volunteer groups like Cape Cares,” Zelazny said. “Most of the patients are poor farmers, and the land is rocky and not the very fertile, so life for these people is hard. There are dentists in the capital, but getting there can be difficult for many and the cost prohibitive.”
Zelazny has been practicing dentistry with his partner, Dr. David Wright. Wright & Zelazny, DDS have offices in the Waterford/Clarkston area and in the Village of Franklin. For more information go to their website or call (248) 673-0505.