Vail Valley: Meet ‘Kim Without Borders’
Vail, CO Colorado
Dr. Kim Schilling’s energy as well as her enthusiastic commitment to attend to the needs of people living on the margins of society are boundless. Her volunteerism has taken her from Barrow, Alaska to the South Pole, to both sides of the dateline and to every continent except Australia.
The main component of Schilling’s personal outreach is the literal transportation of her dental practice to the far reaches of the globe. She frequently works with Rotary International and Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps in their efforts to provide medical and dental care in remote areas.
Since 1986, Schilling has spent as many as eight months a year traveling the world. Her dental project has taken her to Venezuela, Guatemala and Guyana, among others. Often small planes drop her into remote locales and then she’s off on foot, donkey or dugout canoe, carrying all her equipment, medical and personal needs in a backpack.
The work is physically and emotionally taxing. She is supported logistically by fellow volunteers from time to time and also by Remote Area Medical Corps, Rotary International or other non-governmental organizations.
When asked why she left a lucrative private practice to do this work, Schilling answers quickly. ” I have to do this because no one else will,” she says.
She says she found her “calling” during an experience in Guyana . A small plane had left her in the jungle and then she walked from village to village. She and her fellow volunteers ate whatever the locals ate and could spare papayas, mangoes and casaba. The nearest grocery or general store was a two-day walk to neighboring Brazil, so the Indians’ diet was limited to whatever was native to the area.
On that particular trip, a patient’s story galvanized Schilling and inspired her to begin her worldwide dental practice. The patient related that one of her teeth had been extracted. The procedure horrified the dentist as she learned that the common method was to use a knife heated in a fire to pry the tooth out. And of course, no anesthesia was ever administered.
Schilling’s volunteerism extends beyond her dental practice. She has planted trees in the Cayman Islands, provided famine relief in Kenya, worked with orphan girls in Africa, participated in a national inoculation day in Indonesia, and volunteered with disaster relief after the tsunami in Indonesia.
In order to support her service projects, Schilling works in Native American dental clinics around the country. Currently she is practicing in a health clinic in New Mexico, serving a community she loves.
“Kim Without Borders” attended the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria, and then the University of Colorado. When not backpacking around the world, you can find her in Wolcott.
This high-energy young woman dreams of taking herself and her dental equipment on a float trip in Guyana and visiting towns along the way. She also wants to fly into Gunns Strip and serve the Wai Wai Indians of Guyana and Surinam. And surprisingly, she recently has discovered that 3,000 Eagle County kids and their families don’t get proper dental care. She dreams of building a clinic here to serve them.
Schilling always welcomes volunteers to accompany her on her exotic missions. So if you’re looking for an unforgettable vacation experience and opportunity to serve, give her a call.
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