A dental calling
Dr. Kevin Seidler ’78, center, at the Diaconia Clinic in Braila, Romania, in June with a patient and Alexandra, a translator
Photo courtesy ServingHIM
Dr. Kevin Seidler spends about 35 hours a week at his private practice in The Colony, Texas. So what is it that stretches his workweek to 80 hours?
There are lots of ways to fill 80 hours. For many, the average workweek takes up at least half of that. Then there’s sleep, which could — or should — take upward of 60 hours. And what about free time? It’s probably something Dr. Kevin Seidler ’78 doesn’t stop to dwell on much.
Working 35 hours a week at his dental practice in The Colony, Texas, Seidler commonly treats kids and grandkids of his original patients, whom he first started seeing back in 1979. Then there’s his full-time job — working as president and founder of ServingHIM-Healthcare International Ministries — a Christian medical and dental mission group that he started in 1998, which has a volunteer base 500 strong.
“When I’m leaving this office, I’m quickly moving to go to ServingHIM activities,” explains Seidler, who devotes many hours a week to the organization. ServingHIM initiated in Romania and, through the efforts of many volunteers and donations, the organization also has provided missions to Guatemala, India, Moldova, Ukraine and Cuba.
It was only a matter of time before the long-running mission caught the attention of the Academy of General Dentistry, which honored Seidler this summer with the Humanitarian Award, bringing him into the ranks of just 14 individuals in the 37,000-member constituency.
“We take the best of dentistry with us. If you walked
into our clinic in Romania,
for example, you wouldn’t know that you’re not walking in to North Dallas or North Plano.
We don’t do anything less than what we do in our own offices.”
—Dr. Kevin Seidler
He returned from Romania in late June but talked excitedly on a Monday afternoon in August about the ongoing efforts — which include providing medical and dental care, building homes for families and conducting street ministries to connect with kids. Volunteers reach out to youth through arts and crafts, vacation Bible study and even rock concerts that draw thousands of teens. More recently, ServingHIM added an animal ministry, providing goats and pigs to local families and teaching them how to raise the animals and build a business on staples like goat cheese and milk.
It all began 14 years ago when Seidler and 11 other dental professionals traveled to Holy Trinity Church in Braila, Romania, to provide much-needed dental equipment to the congregation’s medical clinic, which was housed in a converted residence. After getting a charter for ServingHIM in 2000 and partnering with the Romanian church, a new five-story medical and dental facility was built. More than 10,000 patients have received health care for little to no cost at the clinic since it opened in 2008. Restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, oral surgery and even implant dentistry are common.
ServingHIM teams comprise volunteers of all ages and disciplines, including dental professionals. Doctors and other health care providers work at the clinic for several days at a time, and when they’re not there, the facility has three dentists and six physicians on staff full time, so patients won’t have gaps in their care.
“We take the best of dentistry with us,” says Seidler. “If you walked into our clinic in Romania, for example, you wouldn’t know that you’re not walking in to North Dallas or North Plano. We don’t do anything less than what we do in our own offices.”
Close ties with the college
There’s a photo on D1 Kristina Miller’s dresser at home. She glances at it each time she tosses down her keys and name badge. In it she’s walking with some orphans in Romania. Miller met them during a ServingHIM trip more than five years ago, after her senior year in high school. The experience resulted in her decision to pursue dentistry.
“I started out that trip just working with the children’s ministry, and then I got really interested in the dental part of it,” says Miller, who was able to help with sterilization, observe procedures and talk with dentists.
“During that trip, Dr. Seidler just kept saying, ‘I can see you doing this. You would be a really good dentist, you should think about it.’”
Instead, Miller pursued political science and health care administration. After getting her bachelor’s degree, Miller landed a job setting up medical and dental practices, and she realized what she needed to do.
When she called Seidler to tell him her decision to apply for dental school, his first response was, “What took you so long,” Miller recalls.
She isn’t the only connection ServingHIM has to Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry. Scores of current students and alumni are involved with the organization, including five 2012 graduates.
“A lot of fine Baylor graduates lead these teams,” Seidler says. These include Drs. Byron McKnight ’81 and Gene Lamberth ’63, ’70, who serve as a Guatemela trip leader and board member, respectively.
Even though Miller was a new high school grad during her last trip to Romania, she still recalls the strong TAMHSC-BCD presence.
“What really struck me was a large majority of the dentists on that trip either went to Baylor themselves or were associated with Baylor,” she says. “It was really interesting to me that they kept that camaraderie and worked together with the organization.”