“Dental decay is the most common chronic disease on the planet, affecting more than 90% of the world’s population. It is the most prevalent childhood disease, affecting more than 70% of school children worldwide. In some countries, such as the Philippines, dental pain is the most frequent reason for absenteeism from school. These striking facts are rarely noted, yet they happen right before everybody’s eyes.” – Dr Habib Benzian, DDS, PhD, co-author & project leader for The Oral Health Atlas
In 2009, while traveling through some of the most impoverished regions of SE Asia, PHS co-founders Michelle Patterson & Hollie Mae Schultz, couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming number of children who suffered from preventable dental disease. They met a little girl in a Cambodian Orphanage who was too ashamed to smile because she had holes in her front teeth. They were saddened to learn that many children either shared toothbrushes, didn’t have one or knew what a toothbrush was. Michelle and Hollie Mae felt something needed to be done. They discussed the idea of starting an organization that would provide basic dental tools and knowledge to underprivileged children globally.
The birth of PHS began with a trial mission in the slums of Saigon, Vietnam at Agape Children’s Home (recently relocated and renamed Eden Family Home). Michelle and Hollie Mae provided the organization with a lesson on oral health and stressed the importance of daily homecare compliance. In addition, they personally donated floss, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Even with limited resources they realized the enormous and positive impact that was made. Thanks to support from family, friends, volunteers and donors PHS became a 501(c)(3) in 2010. Currently, PHS has programs in Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Our mission is to create sustainable oral health programs for underprivileged children worldwide. These programs will focus on preventative care by providing oral health education and dental supplies.
Board Of Directors
Michelle Patterson R.D.H. / Co-Founder & Executive Director
Michelle graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. After working in the field for several years she came across an opportunity to teach English and do volunteer work in Vietnam. She was proud to volunteer as the first English teacher for Agape Children’s Home (renamed Eden Family Home). She also used her free time to visit children and help feed infants at several other orphanages in Ho Chi Minh City. While traveling through SE Asia she visited and donated to orphanages and children’s organizations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. “Teaching, traveling and volunteering on the other side of the globe was an incredible and eye opening experience. As a registered hygienist, it was hard not to notice an overall lack in oral health. I was saddened the most by the number of children I saw with infection and disease in their mouthes. Educating these children on oral health and giving them the tools to stay compliant increases the chances they will pass this down for generations to come. I am proud to be a part of Project Healthy Smile’s mission to save smiles worldwide.”
Hollie Mae Schultz / Co-Founder & Executive Director
Hollie Mae has a Bachelor of Independent Studies Degree in Public Health and Sociology from the University of Minnesota. She has worked for 10 years doing direct services as a Youth Advocate and Counselor for at-risk and homeless youth through non-profit organizations, such as Project Foundation and The Bridge in Minneapolis, MN. “Working with at-risk youth for many years showed me how a community can be the greatest influence on a child. When the community is lacking in the proper knowledge and tools, then children don’t go without, they go without knowing any different. The idea of giving a child the education and tools for good health is a basic need that every person deserves. Project Healthy Smile has the ability to provide this basic need and make a mission of improving the quality of life for children in vulnerable situations. Teaching the value of good health and how to sustain good health is our priority.”
Tiffany Serbus / Director
Tiffany Serbus developed a passion for nonprofit while studying at the University of London, England. Determined to make her international learning experience all-encompassing, she immersed herself into volunteering. Upon returning to the States, she continued by partnering with Maria’s Children, Art Rehabilitation Program for Russian orphans and ultimately went to Moscow to work directly in the orphanages. Tiffany believes that helping someone in need, while learning about another culture, is the most gratifying travel experience. “Working directly with the people gives you an insight that you can’t get from a travel guidebook, no matter how many you read.” Tiffany has a business and marketing degree with a minor in Psychology from St. Thomas in Minnesota.
Micah Farley / Director
Micah graduated with his Juris Doctor from Golden Gate University School of Law where he specialized in international law. Before law school, Micah received his B.A. in Political Science from Georgia State University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration from Columbus State University. Micah found his passion for the public sector while working pro bono for underrepresented populations regarding environmental health issues. This passion along, with his enthusiasm for international issues, is what led him to PHS. “My time abroad had brought me to first-world nations where there were very few issues related to health and poverty. I realized that my skills could make the biggest difference in people’s lives by focusing on children in developing countries where there was this lack of prosperity. This is where the folks at PHS and I crossed paths.”
Vanessa Berrueta / MN Program Director
Vanessa Berrueta Zambrano developed her passion for service during her college years. A graduate of dentistry at the University of Zulia in Venezuela, she dedicated the last year of her career to serving as a volunteer in one of the most underprivileged areas of Venezuela, San Felipe. She also volunteered as a scientific explorer in the research project “Prevalence of Dental Decay in Venezuelan Ethnic Groups”. This project helped establish a real vision of the needs in different rural villages throughout the country. “Working with underprivileged communities gives you the actual opportunity to help those who really need it. It is always shocking to see the amount of families that share a toothbrush or the number of children suffering from tooth decay and lack access to oral health. For that reason, it is satisfying to be able to help, inform and make a real change in this important aspect of the human being it is the smile.” Now living in the United States, Vanessa is part of the organization as MN Program Director. “I am very happy to be part of this organization and share their noble mission. This is also my passion and personal mission: Saving smiles!”