Texan dentist’s ‘extraordinary contributions’ lead to Health Volunteers Overseas honor
April 21, 2017
— Dr. Charles Bloomer has proverbial wisdom he likes to recite.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
“It makes a lot of sense to me,” said the oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Texas.
That educating philosophy, along with 16 years of service around the globe with groups including the charitable humanitarian organization Health Volunteers Overseas, has earned him the HVO Golden Apple Award, announced in April.
The HVO Golden Apple recognizes volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to global heath and the mission of the organization. Six others received the Golden Apple this year, but Dr. Bloomer was the only dental health professional.
“Dr. Bloomer has made extraordinary contributions to the quality and availability of oral health care around the world,” says HVO Executive Director Nancy Kelly, an honorary member of the ADA. “He has created new professional opportunities for his overseas colleagues, renewing their enthusiasm for the provision of oral health care. His mentorship, enthusiasm and expertise have provided crucial professional support, and we are grateful for his dedication to empowering health workers and ensuring more and better care is available where it is most needed.”
“I don’t know why I got it,” said Dr. Bloomer, who opened his practice in Abilene, Texas, in 1983 and joined Health Volunteers Overseas in 2001. “There are people a lot more famous than me. I’m just a regular guy.”
Extending friendship: Dr. Bloomer steps out of the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia while conducting a humanitarian dental mission on behalf of Health Volunteers Overseas.
The ADA member dentist has shown his generosity regularly throughout the years. He has volunteered in Samoa, Tanzania, Vietnam and Cambodia.
But it is in Peru where he has shown the most devotion. Dr. Bloomer has visited Peru nine times on dental humanitarian missions, and was HVO’s Peru project director from 2006-15, assisting other volunteers as they organized their own dental mission trips to the South American country.
Peru has inspired him so much that he now takes Spanish lessons through Skype with a tutor in northern Peru. “I still know nothing,” he said, though he plans on visiting with her personally in the near future.
Dr. Bloomer has a simple reason for why he dedicates much of his life to serving the underserved. “It’s an opportunity to see the world,” he said. “With regular travel, you get to see things. With this, you get to know people.”
Part of the reason why he has gone to Peru and other countries repeatedly is to create sustainability for the people he serves. While he still lauds other dentists who come in for one-week trips on dental missions, he tries to make a longer impact.
That is why much of his service is mentoring and teaching local dentists wherever he goes. As HVO noted in its announcement of Dr. Bloomer’s award, “He is an energized, enthusiastic spokesperson for Health Volunteers Overseas and has been extremely well-received in each of the countries where he has served. He is able to meet people at their varying levels of instruction and comfortably address their needs through didactic, clinical and bedside teaching. In Peru, which he has visited most frequently, Dr. Bloomer has been a mentor and provided equipment, supplies and textbooks to improve the capacity for oral and maxillofacial surgery.”
Dr. Bloomer doesn’t plan on resting on his laurels. He hopes to go on a dental humanitarian trip to Kathmandu and then Cambodia this September. “It recharges my batteries,” he said.
Dr. Bloomer graduated from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, and then went to dental school at the School of Dentistry at University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio. His internship and residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery was completed at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1983.
Together in care: Dr. Bloomer, second from left, poses with three staff members of the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, while on a humanitarian dental mission with Health Volunteers Overseas.
To learn more about Health Volunteers Overseas, visit hvousa.org
To learn more about international volunteerism and find a volunteer opportunity, visit the ADA Foundation's international volunteer website, internationalvolunteer.ADA.org