Extending a helping hand

The challening journey to humanitarianism

Tristan Hamilton, DDS, M. Arch.

Apart from being both a dentist and an architect, Dr. Tristan Hamilton is also an avid humanitarian. From his first medical mission in Western Zambia to his current clinic in Grenada, mission work has always been a staple in Dr. Hamilton’s life.

After spending some time in Western Africa, Dr. Hamilton said he knew that mission work was his passion. This ultimately led him to create the Church Street Clinic in the city of St. George’s on the island of Grenada.

Dr. Hamilton said Grenada proved to be one of the more difficult places that he has done mission work in, mostly due to their strict regulations.

Dr. Tristan Hamilton during some of his early mission work.

“I’ve been all over the world doing mission work and doing every aspect of mission work; whether I’m building a facility, using my hands to do construction, or whether or not I’m doing medical or dental work. It’s never been difficult to actually do good, except in Grenada,” Dr. Hamilton said.

Dr. Hamilton was fully expecting to see patients when he first arrived in Grenada, but a quick call from the liaison in the United States changed all of that.

Instead of being able to sit down and care for the patients in Grenada, Dr. Hamilton said he spent his first day scrambling around to try and get his dental license passed by the Grenada Medical and Dental Council.  

“I spent a whole entire day visiting four different government offices, and at the end of the day, they only qualified me to be able to do sealants,” Dr. Hamilton said.

Dr. Tristan Hamilton with his family in Grenada.

Although being approved to do sealants may not seem like that big of a deal, Dr. Hamilton counted this as a huge victory and even said he learned some other lessons from that challenging, hectic day.

“That day made me aware of a lot of things, like how patients are a great virtue to have,” Dr. Hamilton said.

Overcoming other hardships

Construction barriers

Dr. Hamilton still had some hurdles to get over once his license was approved in Grenada. Construction in third-world countries is not always the easiest, and Dr. Hamilton said the builders had to get creative sometimes.

“We were inspecting the office and got down into the basement where I inspected the suction and the compressor. I walked right outside to see that the drain hose from the hi-vac suction was sticking out of the window of the basement and into the gutter of the stree. Totally normal, right?” Dr. Hamilton said.

The difference in something as simple as what materials were being used really blew Dr. Hamilton away.

Even though some of the projects had to be redone, both the builders and Dr. Hamilton were able to work together to get the clinic up and running.  

 Being in two places at once

While doing work at the Church Street Clinic, Dr. Hamilton soon realized that his consistency would make the biggest impact on the community. This was a hard pill to swallow because his original plans did not include him being in Grenada full-time.

Dr. Hamilton assessing the inventory at the Church Street Clinic.

“My vision for the Church Street Clinic was that I’d go down a few times a year and spend a couple of weeks serving the people of that area, but then I asked myself, what happens in the mean time?”

Dr. Hamilton soon became concerned about what would happen to the patients who needed a dentist when he wasn’t readily in the country. It was hard for him to accept the fact that he wouldn’t be the ultimate cure-all for the St. George’s community.

Thankfully, Dr. Hamilton was able to find a solution to this problem with the help of Dr. Noel. Dr. Noel will act as the boots on the ground year round, catering to those patients in need when Dr. Hamilton isn’t around.

“Now we have somebody that’s in place and that’s really committed to giving back to her people. Now we have that consistency within our clinic’s setting to provide the greatest impact to the community.” Dr. Hamilton said.

Apart from Dr. Noel, there are two other volunteers who help out at the clinic. Dr. Hamilton is even in the process of hiring a dental hygienist to work at the clinic that would act as another constant presence for the community.

Why it’s all worth it

Though the process of creating and working in the Church Street Clinic were troubling and difficult, Dr. Hamilton said he persevered for all of the moments that fill his heart with joy.  It’s not just about the dental work Dr. Hamilton does for his patients, but about going that extra mile and showing his patients that he cares.

“Once they know that you care, you become more than just some outsider who’s there for a two-week fix,” Dr Hamilton said.

Dr. Hamilton said going above and beyond with his patients has always proven to make the greatest impact above all.

Dr. Tristan Hamilton (center) during his mission work.

His mission work has taught him that he’ll never know what’s about to walk through the door, just that he has to be prepared to try and offer the best care that he possibly can. “My take home was that I need to provide a quality of care no matter what I encounter,” Dr. Hamilton said.

One patient that’s close to Dr. Hamilton’s heart is a man who had a mass removed from the right side of his face. Dr. Hamilton knew that this patient was in a dire situation, since the five-centimeter mass blocked his right eye and went down towards his jaw.

The patient’s reaction after the procedure is one that Dr. Hamilton will remember for the rest of his life.

“His first comment was, ‘Now I can get a girlfriend because I don’t have this mass on my face!’” Dr. Hamilton said.

Future Plans

As Dr. Hamilton continues to improve the clinic, he’s also aiming to expand his reach to the other surrounding islands. “There’s a couple of different islands within the chain, such as Carriacou , that we’re eventually trying to get to with a mobile dental unit in order to serve some of the people who have a harder time getting to Grenada to be treated.”

Even though majority of the clinic’s patients come from Grenada, Dr. Hamilton wants to be able to extend his treatment and care to all of those who need it.

Dr. Hamilton with a child during his mission work.

Dr. Hamilton plans on traveling down to the Church Street Clinic this upcoming September. He has certain goals to achieve for the clinic and hopes to see a lot of progress get made. Even though the clinic is functioning, Dr. Hamilton realizes that improvements can and always will always be made.  

Supporting the clinic

Those interested in supporting the Church Street Clinic can do so directly on the clinic’s Facebook page. The Church Street Clinic team accepts all donations including things like thoughts, prayers, monetary donations and even instruments and supplies.

Want to volunteer?

Don’t worry about a lack of dental knowledge or experience.

Volunteers can take on a variety of roles, including ones where they act as additional support.

Dr. Hamilton realizes that oftentimes it’s the extra help and support that makes the biggest difference in mission work such as the Church Street Clinic.

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