Making Haiti a better place, one smile at a time

Three Loyola alumni provide preventive dental care to Haitian schoolchildren

Meet three dentists: Barry Murphy, DDS, ’72,  James Taneyhill, DDS, ’69, and Lew Libby, DDS, ’72.

These Loyola alumni travel together to Haiti two to three times a year to provide dental care to Haitian schoolchildren.

Doctors Barry, Jim, and Lew pose together by the office's front desk.

“The qualifications for the trip: you must have good clinical skills, be easy company, and a little bit crazy,” said Murphy.

In 2007, Taneyhill, Libby, and Murphy started their trips to Haiti to provide dental care to the students at the Good Samaritan School. All three men also graduated from the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry. Each has practiced dentistry in the Baltimore area for at least 35 years, and they met through their profession.

Kevin Murphy, DDS, a 1978 graduate of Marquette University, also occasionally joins the men on their trips.

Taneyhill was inspired to provide dental care to Haitian students after meeting Rod Mortel, M.D., a Haitian-born retired medical oncology surgeon who was associated with Hershey Medical Center, while on a volunteer trip to Haiti with his church. Mortel founded the non-profit Mortel High Hopes for Haiti Foundation and the Mortel Family Charitable Foundation. Through donations, he was able to build the Good Samaritan School.

Taneyhill, Murphy, and Libby travel to St. Marc, Haiti, a poverty-stricken area roughly two hours northwest of Port-au-Prince, to serve at the Good Samaritan School. While at the school, they typically provide dental care for between 120-220 elementary students, high school students, teachers, custodians, and cooks.

A Haitian child sits in a dentist chair smiling A Haitian child and dentist smile for a selfie A Haitian child sits in a dentist chair smiling

Students who attend the Good Samaritan School are sponsored by donors who mainly live in the Baltimore, Md., and Hershey, Pa., areas.

We know this is the only time the students we see will receive dental care.

The three men, who self-fund their trips with some assistance from High Hopes for Haiti, have found friendship in their travels.

“There are three reasons why we do it—one, we enjoy hanging out with each other; two, it’s an adventure; and three, we love the children,” said Murphy, who has practiced dentistry in Towson since 1987.

Recently, they received a donation for equipment from the Dansereau Dental Company in Corona, Calif. The equipment—which includes two pediatric chairs, one adult chair, a compressor, and vacuum machines, will help the dentists continue to provide preventive and restorative care to the members of the Good Samaritan School community.

Haitian girls in school uniforms smile and laugh with the dentist.

“We know this is the only time the students we see will receive dental care,” said Murphy.

I don’t know if I can explain on an emotional level what it’s like to help these students, but when we are in the middle of helping, there isn’t any other place we would rather be.

Haiti—which is currently under many travel restrictions, saw an increase in violence earlier this year and caused one of the trips to be canceled. Despite the hazardous travel conditions, the men say they have a calling to give back to the community.

“I don’t know if I can explain on an emotional level what it’s like to help these students, but when we are in the middle of helping, there isn’t any other place we would rather be,” said Taneyhill.

The men believe their Jesuit education provided them with core values to provide this service to the children of Haiti.

“It was very unpredictable that we would all meet and be graduates of Loyola, but we were given the tools and core Jesuit values, so this type of thing was bound to happen,” said Libby.

Photos courtesy of Lew Libby, DDS, ’72, and James Taneyhill, DDS, ’69.