Service spans five continents
Dr. Robert Kinsaul receives 2008 ADA Humanitarian Award
"I haven't been to Antarctica yet, but I'm going one of these days," said Dr. Kinsaul, who has since 1976 logged 59 international mission trips—from Siberia to South America—to help those in desperate need. "It's been 32 years worth of excitement to me."
Dr. Kinsaul has reached out to those in need, including tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, earthquake victims in Pakistan, citizens of war-torn Afghanistan and reindeer herders in the Siberian tundra.
"Every trip is unique," he said. "A book could be written about every one of them."
He will soon be returning to Rameswaram, India, where he is helping to establish a 2,400-square-foot dental clinic. He was also instrumental in setting up dental clinics in El Salvador, Afghanistan and Russia. Dr. Kinsaul even flew a Russian dentist and his bilingual office manager from the Moscow clinic to the U.S. at his own expense. They received a week of training in his 14-chair dental office to learn how to treat multiple patients more effectively in their clinic and an additional week to see some of the sights.
A memorable trip, he said, is his 2006 trip to Afghanistan, where his mission group spent four days treating patients in mountain villages and another two days treating orphans in Kabul. He also worked two days at Cure Hospital in Kabul where he helped design a dental clinic space within the hospital. He also funded the purchase of equipment and supplies for the new clinic.
"We had two female physicians treating patients, but no female dentists, so we weren't going to be allowed to treat the women," said Dr. Kinsaul. "But I had done this enough times to learn that people are people. When you spend a little time getting to know people, you can branch beyond political relationships into personal ones. Health care has a way of opening doors."
Eventually, he added, the team was able to win the confidence of local leaders, and Afghan women were able to receive much-needed dental care.
"It is clear that your humanitarian work has changed the lives of those treated and motivated other dental professionals to get involved," said ADA President John. S. Findley. "It is an honor for the ADA to recognize you as the recipient of the American Dental Association Humanitarian Award."
Dr. Kinsaul's wife Sheila, who is trained in primary eye care, has accompanied him on many missions in the past, especially in the last seven years and helped provide eyeglasses for those in need, he says. "I credit her with a lot of the success of these trips. For example, when we went to Sri Lanka after the tsunami, everyone we came in contact with had family members who had been killed in the disaster. We heard story after story of tragedy and loss. My wife, who is a very caring individual, realized that just to speak to them, to touch them, to care about them gave them new life—even before they received medical and dental care. We encounter hopelessness where ever we go and our message is about hope."
Dr. Kinsaul, a native of Phenix City, graduated from Auburn University and earned his dental degree from the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, the Alabama Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Endodontic Society, the Christian Medical/Dental Association and the Christian Dental Society. He serves on the Advisory Boards of World Dental Relief, International Healthcare Network, and Healthcare Ministries. He and his wife Sheila live on a 300-acre farm where they raise cattle. They have four children: Katherine, Nathan, Cynthia and Caleb; three grandsons: Joshua, Noah and Tucker; and four granddaughters: Jenna, Emma, Maddie, and Myra Kate.
As a solo practitioner early in his career, Dr. Kinsaul said he planned his trips so he would leave on a Friday and return the next weekend, so he'd only have five days away from the office for each trip. Later, as his practice grew, he added two associates and was able to stretch his trips to two weeks at a time.
He is also dedicated to helping people in need in his own neighborhood, treating patients referred to him by local organizations and churches, often patients recovering from drug or alcohol addictions.
"We can give them a little self-esteem through dentistry and get them to smile again. We help them regain their dignity," he said.
"Volunteering is where my joy comes from," said Dr. Kinsaul, who says he is motivated by his deep religious faith to help others. "It's not about me. It's about a passion for service, a lifestyle that's a formula for peace and joy, a balanced life with giving back. In the process, you can make a difference in peoples' lives and help them re-chart their destinies."
Dr. Kinsaul credits his accomplishments to being organized and receiving lots of help and support from teams of caring individuals who also work on the mission trips. "I work with a variety of organizations, and once you start, its like you've joined a network and you start getting invitations from other organizations. Now all I have to do is follow my checklist."
Dr. Kinsaul will receive a $5,000 award that will be donated to the dental charity or project of his choice, and he will be recognized at the ADA's 150th annual session in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2009.
The ADA Humanitarian Award recognizes dentist members who have distinguished themselves by outstanding, unselfish leadership and contributions to their fellow human beings in the field of dentistry through the dedication of extraordinary time and professional skills to improve the oral health of underserved populations within the United States and abroad.Nominations for the 2009 ADA Humanitarian Award are now being accepted by the Center for International Development and Affairs. To request a nomination packet, call 1-312-440-2726, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.ada.org/ada/international/art_humanitarian_award.asp.