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Marshall Green Chosen for Humanitarian Award

The Academy of Dentistry International (ADI), an international honor society focused on improving the lives of people around the world, has chosen Marshall Green, a 25-year old fourth-year dental student from Baton Rouge, to receive its 2009 Terry Tanaka Student Humanitarian Award.

Touching lives: Marshall Green plays with the children from the village of Kerala, India, who were "wonderful, polite and beautiful."

Dr. Robert Ramus, executive director of the ADI, said that the award was created in honor of Dr. Tanaka, whose “contributions to educational and humanitarian projects in local and developing foreign countries have been a shining light for the dental fraternity.” In choosing Marshall for this unique honor, Dr. Ramus said that “we can be optimistic for the future of dentistry because of caring, selfless individuals” like him.

Give to Receive

Since 2007, Marshall has been an integral member of four medical missions to India, Honduras, Mexico and Peru. Along the way, he’s provided care for about 1,000 children and adults. Working in small groups of six to eight people, the dental team treats 150 to 200 people a day.

Headed for Peru, are, from left, Dr. Dick DuBois, Marshall Green, Dr. Kenneth Dubois, Chelsea Agar-Accardo, Ryan May and Julia Cheuk.

Marshall has learned that a clinic is often not a building but a tin shack or a hut without electricity. He’s learned that one of the most useful items he ever held in his hand is a solar-powered portable drill. He’s learned how to borrow equipment, improvise and pack sharp instruments that can pass the inspection of airport security. He knows the value of making plans and staying flexible.

More importantly, he’s experienced the paradox of life. “I used to think that life was about receiving, that I would become a dentist and would reap the financial rewards. Now I think about how much I should share those rewards with others.” He’s learned a lot about humility and his own limitations through the example of outstanding mentors like Dr. Kenneth DuBois, clinical professor in the LSUSD Department of Prosthodontics.

Chelsea Agar-Accardo and Dr. Kenneth DuBois at work treating one of 60 members of the Shipibo Indian village in Dinamarca, Peru, on the banks of the Ucayali River near the headwaters of the Amazon River.

Dr. DuBois taught him the far-reaching consequences of treating patients without access to follow-up care. As a result, Marshall learned not to start a dental treatment that can’t be finished, a hard lesson for a high-energy young man eager to make the world better. “People look to you to fix their problem,” he said when describing the pain of an eight-year old boy in Honduras. “I had to stop, pull back and be guided by my limitations,” he added. “That kind of experience drives me to learn more.”

Marshall has also learned trust by confronting fears. There was the night the engine broke on their small boat and the medical team floated on a foreign river while logs rumbled from a nearby landslide.

There was the ugly confrontation with village elders who accused the medical team of being “face peelers,” people who take away body parts to sell in other countries. Thank goodness the confrontation ended when the medical mission burned the collected teeth and tissue in the presence of the villagers. What a lesson in listening and staying flexible!

He’s been surprised by the overall good health of the farmers and cattlemen he has treated. “So many of them have perfect blood pressure.”

Off to work in the city of Pullcapa, Peru, are (from left) Walter, Peggy, Chelsea Agar-Accardo, Natalie, Dr. Kenneth DuBois, Julia Cheuk and Joseph. All were part of the mission team.

He’s been delighted by how eager the locals are to learn so they can help themselves, to set up their own clinics and to organize their own community fluoride treatments.

As shown by the example of Dr. Tanaka, Marshall has learned that the weight of carrying a 75-pound backpack through the jungle is incomparable to the satisfaction of caring for others.

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Last Update 12/2009