Suwanee dentist Dr. Bill Williams has been traveling to Kenya since 2001 as part of the Kenya Medical Outreach, a Georgia-based non-profit aide organization. He and his wife of thirty years, Sharon, who Dr. Williams describes as the backbone of the missions, travel with a team of 25 to 30 volunteers each year to provide dental and medical assistance to the remote Kenyan village of Olmekenyu.
Because of his work and active support of charity in the medical community, the Christian Dental Society (CDS) recently recognized Dr. Bill Williams” outreach by presenting him with this year”s Ron Lamb Award. The award is given annually to dental professionals who provide treatment to those without access to dental care, and encourage public service in and through their practices.
Dr. Williams says he received the inspiration to conduct international aide missions from his brother and sister-in-law, Reverend Brad and Christina Williams, who began bringing medical aide to Kenya in 1998.
"My brother and his wife visited Kenya for the first time in 1998 and saw an immediate need for medical care," Williams says. "They met a baby girl who was badly burned and dying. It was a two-day walk to the closest hospital and none of the villagers had a car. My brother immediately took the baby to a hospital. She lived and was named Mercy. The local government said that if my brother would build a hospital, they would donate the land. That is where my involvement began."
Dr. Williams helped with the fundraising efforts to build this hospital, which was completed in 2000 and named Mercy Hospital in honor of the mission”s first patient. He and his wife visited the next year, and have returned every year since.
"My very first patient, Tabula, had a tumor in her mouth the size of a grapefruit. We got her into a hospital and she has since had several surgeries to remove the growth. Every time we visit, she walks two days to see us."
Each year, Dr. Williams and his team provide approximately 100 pairs of glasses, extract 600 teeth, see 2000 patients and fill 5,000 prescriptions. They also distribute food, construct buildings and shelters, transport patients to hospitals and raise money for their care.
The team is currently working to create much-needed infrastructure to fight disease and raise quality of life for the villagers. In addition to digging wells and creating water distribution and purification systems, Dr. Williams” team and other volunteers recently erected a grain silo for the village. This project became a priority after a recent drought led to the starvation deaths of several villagers and much of the village”s cattle.
"When I first went over there, I thought that I would be helping these people, but they are the ones who have helped me. They have no material possessions, but yet they have joy, faith and hope. They have taught me that you don”t need possessions to live a full, happy life. They have taught me more than I have taught them."
Dr. Williams and his Suwanee staff are also involved in numerous local charities, including Gwinnett Medical Center”s Brighter Smiles Campaign and Give Back a Smile, a campaign sponsored by the American College of Cosmetic Dentistry that offers cosmetic reconstruction to victims of domestic violence, among many others.
"Everyone needs to have a mission," Dr. Williams says. "People need a cause to get behind. Don”t ask yourself “Should I have a mission?” – but rather “What is my mission?” Everyone can help others and I want to challenge people to do so."