The Saipan Seventh-day Adventist Clinic is celebrating 40 years of providing dental care to the Pacific island. The founding missionary couple, Dr. Steve and Karyl Fisher, are making a return visit to the island last week as part of the celebration, reports the Saipan Tribune. They started the clinic in 1972 in response to a request from the Legislature of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a territory of the United States with the same status as Puerto Rico but located half way around the world from the Caribbean.
The clinic is the primary provider of dental care among a population of more than 50,000. It has four full-time and two part-time doctors, as well as allied health staff. It conducts an active wellness program with participation in health fairs and presentations at schools, as well as being part of the Give Kids A Smile program. “We are not driven by profit but rather by what’s best for each patient,” Dr. Kenneth Pierson, clinic director, told the newspaper. “Christian principles … are at the core of their organization [and] distinguish them from other private dental clinics,” a reporter wrote.
“I think community involvement is what we’re here for,” Dr. Fisher reflected on why he and his wife came to Saipan. “I’m always excited at how well the community accepted us and actually contributes to our success,” he remembered. “The core of the community is the children.”
The clinic provides $50,000 a year for scholarships for children to attend the Adventist elementary school on the island. A total of 29 students were provided with 75 percent of tuition in the last year principal Sharon Nguyen told the Marianas Variety newspaper.
The clinic is “considering opening satellite dental clinics on Rota and Tinian” (two of the smaller islands), Variety also reported. Dental teams from the clinic currently travel to these islands at least three times a year under an agreement with the community health centers on the islands.
CNMI is located in the western Pacific about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. The 15 islands had a population of 53,833 in the 2010 census. The United States gained control of these islands in the war with Spain over Cuba and the Philippines in the late 19th century.
The clinic is one of two operated by the Guam Micronesia Mission of the Adventist Church. Guam is a larger island to the south of CNMI with a population about eight times the size of the Northern Marianas. It also has a separate government. The Adventist Clinic on Guam includes medical and optical services as well as dental care.
The Guam Micronesia Mission became part of the North American Division at the 2010 General Conference Session. It has 20 congregations and about 5,000 members with a penetration ratio of one Adventist to every 93 of the general public. In addition to the two clinics, it operates six schools all together, each of which offers both elementary and secondary education (K-12). It also sponsors an FM radio station on Guam.
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