Dr. William Fessler – Founding member, Fairfield County Chapter
When he first visited Honduras in January 2011, Dr. William Fessler saw the need for dental care in an orphanage that sustained over 600 children. More than seven years later, Fessler, a licensed dentist with a practice in Norwalk, Connecticut, has built a state-of-the-art dental facility to complement a medical clinic at the orphanage.
Fessler, a founding member of Legatus’ Fairfield County Chapter, also volunteers his time and talents to benefit a dental clinic in the Dominican Republic. He and his wife, Mary Beth, have also been members of the Order of Malta. Fessler, 58, recently spoke with Legatus magazine.
What made you want to start a dental clinic in Honduras?
Someone suggested we go down there because they needed dentists. They had 500 to 700 kids at the orphanage without any dental facilities. We went down, our first time there, and fell in love with the place. Some of the kids needed surgery, but all of them needed dentistry. We made a commitment that we would build a state-of-the-art dental clinic there, not only to service the people on the orphanage and the staff that services, educates and takes care of them, but also to reach out to the community. Dentistry is a luxury in that part of the world.
Where in Honduras is the clinic?
We’re in an area called Olancho, about one hour outside of Tegucigalpa. We have our own cattle. We grow our own food. We educate the kids. We have service opportunities for not only the kids but for volunteers who come down. It’s a very well-run machine that was founded through the organization Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, which is located in nine different countries.
How often do you get to visit the clinic in Honduras?
We’ve been down there episodically, but we’re trying to get down there three or four times a year now, to make sure that the dental clinic is running smoothly and efficiently. The dental clinic recently joined One World Surgery and is open year-round. One World Surgery provides state-of-the-art medical and dental care to those in need in third world countries.
Our dental clinic is not yet staffed to the extent that we would like, but we have tremendous facilities. The hope is to eventually bring down brigades of dental teams to serve the communities that don’t have access to care. I also intend to connect with Catholic universities with dental schools in the U.S., to see if we can develop educational exchange opportunities between dentists in Honduras and dentists at these U.S. schools.
How did you also come to be involved with dental care in the Dominican Republic?
My wife and I met 35 years ago while working on a mission through Georgetown University in the Dominican Republic. I’ve been back there several times with my classmate from Georgetown to continue that effort to provide dentistry to the people that don’t have access to it.
What role does the Catholic faith play in your charitable works and in your life?
Our faith has been a gift to us. My grandparents gave it to my parents, and my parents — I’m one of ten kids — passed it on to us. We really feel just so blessed to have had that faith given to us.
We also feel it’s not only good, but it’s a duty for us to make sure that the Faith lives on through our children. To me, the most important thing we can do is show our faith to our children through our actions, and if we can do that, then it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring it home.
What do you and your wife like to do in your free time?
My wife has been running three miles every morning with her best friend that she met in Catholic grammar school. She’s involved in a lot of activities. I like golf. We like to travel together. Honestly, most of our activities in the last 10 years have been focused around the Order of Malta and working down in Honduras. Now, we’re very much involved in Legatus and in working with the bishop in our community.