Dr. George Ciavola finally figured out what to do with his unused X-ray machine.
The Rutland orthodontist has donated the device to a clinic in Haiti, loading it into the back of a colleague’s car for a trip to Connecticut, where it would then be shipped onward to the Caribbean nation.
Ciavola said the donation was inspired by a discussion with another Rutland dentist, Dr. Stephen Moran, who volunteered in the Haiti clinic last year.
“In the course of the conversation, he mentioned they’re going down there soon, and they’re always looking for people to volunteer their time and also some equipment,” Ciavoloa said. “This facility down in Haiti is pretty rudimentary.”
Ciavola said it occurred to him he had the perfect contribution in the form of a new X-ray machine. He said he bought it because he incorrectly believed he needed it to meet a licensure requirement.
“It sat here unused and expensive,” he said. “I never really tried (to sell it). This seemed like a nice thing to do. … I thought I’d put it to use.”
Ciavola said he did not remember how much he spent on the machine, but it was in the $5,000 to $10,000 price range.
The donation was made through Medical Aid To Haiti (MATH), an organization that sponsors a Haitian-staffed mobile medical clinic in the Port-au-Prince area, a full-time fixed clinic and a full-time surgical team, supplementing those services by sending American medical teams to Haiti several times a year to work with local providers. The organization says it supports 17,000 patient visits a year.
According to MATH’s website, Haiti has a population of more than 10 million who live on less than $2 a day.
“Right now, the clinic has one bare light bulb, no chairs and certainly no x-ray equipment,” Moran said.
Moran said he mostly did extractions while he was in Haiti.
“It’s emergent care, basically,” he said. “If someone has a toothache, they show up at the clinic. … If you have an x-ray unit there, you can diagnose decay before it gets to an emergency situation, before the tooth needs to be removed. Hopefully, the resident dentist there will be able to save teeth rather than extract them.”
Moran said the x-ray machine will also make it easier to do better, safer extractions.
Ciavola said he has never volunteered in Haiti — though he has in different parts of the U.S.
He said he might join Moran in Haiti someday, but as a specialist, he would feel the need to brush up on the sort of general dentistry that is in higher demand there.
“I hope to go again,” Moran said. “We just have to wait for civil unrest in Haiti and COVID to blow over.”