Dr. Gael Delany (above) has helped transform a crude Dominican dental clinic into a modern facility that serves thousands free of charge.

To illustrate his commitment to dental service abroad, Dr. Delany, an endodontist in Washington, D.C., likes to tell of his first visit to the Dominican Republic a decade ago, when he performed a rudimentary root canal to save a young woman from a disfiguring extraction.

Dr. Gael Delany.

Dr. Gael Delany.

That trip, undertaken with Somos Amigos Medical Missions, has since blossomed into much greater involvement with the group. Dr. Delany has recruited colleagues for missions, encouraged equipment donations, donated a digital-radiography system of his own and secured a $100,000 grant from the Catholic organization the Order of Malta — transforming the clinic in El Naranjito “from one of ‘pulling teeth under a tree with a folding chair and a headlamp’ to a full-service 10-chair clinic providing extractions, restorative dentistry, full and partial dentures and root canal therapy,” Dr. Delany says.

A Fordham University graduate, Dr. Delany worked part-time at a VA hospital in the Bronx and, later, at a similar facility in Washington, during which time he met Sister Janice Helsey, the administrator of the Spanish Catholic Center.

“Sister Janice allowed me to volunteer at a low-income, primarily Hispanic clinic and opened my eyes to the joy of giving of oneself by donating our skills to those who would otherwise go without care,” he says. Subsequent travels to New Mexico with the Indian/Alaska Dental Program encouraged him to redouble his charitable efforts.

Dr. Delany’s advice to the philanthropically minded? Simply get out there and give your time — you never know how much you might accomplish. “It’s only through exposure to a volunteer opportunity that a spark can be ignited that will kindle a real desire to give back to society in some capacity,” he says. “I encourage everyone at least to take that first step. It has certainly worked for me.”

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