Local dentist strives to save lives and rescue smiles

By Ian Davis-Leonard | Jun 20, 2018
Courtesy of: Nhi Pham Dr. Pham operating during her recent trip to Tanzania.

Mukilteo dentist Dr. Nhi Pham keeps busy.

As the owner and operator of Mukilteo Dental Center and a mother of three, Pham has her hands full at home. But this hasn’t stopped her from pursuing service across the globe.

Pham has ventured across the globe many times to serve others. After graduating from the University of Washington dental school, she spent four years as a member of the National Health Service Corp. More recently she has provided dental care to people in Haiti and Ecuador, as well as in Greece where she assisted refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.

“My heart is definitely dedicated to serving, whether it be locally or internationally,” Pham said.  “I will never be able to show enough thankfulness for God’s grace and for the local community that came together to support our family when we arrived as refugees in 1975.”

As a baby, Pham’s family fled communist Vietnam for a safer future in America. Her family settled in Snohomish County, in part because of a sponsorship from St. Michael’s Church in Snohomish.

“It is an honor for me to serve in the same community that has given so much to my family,” she said.

Pham is a board member and active volunteer with Medical Relief International (MRI). It is with MRI that she has crossed the globe providing dental, medical and humanitarian aid to people in need.

Her latest endeavor took place earlier this month when she traveled to Tanzania, a country where there is just one dentist per 1.5 million people, Pham said.

Her mission was a simple one: “To save lives and rescue smiles.”

While the Tanzanian trip was rooted in service, it was also an opportunity for celebration.

During her stay in the East African country, Pham witnessed the opening of the Barikiwa Medical Center, a maternity and dental clinic that MRI has helped fund over the last four years.

MRI has fundraised extensively for this Barikiwa Clinic, purchasing incubators, monitors, sterilizers, portable ultrasound, x-ray devices, maternity desk and much more for the facility.

As part of the fundraising effort, Pham designed t-shirts for MRI that say, “This T-shirt Saves Lives & Rescues Smiles.” Profits earned from the shirts have gone directly back into the Barikiwa facility.

In Swahili, the native language of Tanzania, Barikiwa means blessing, and that is exactly what Pham hopes this new clinic will be to the people it serves.

“Instead of hosting a temporary dental clinic, this is a permanent clinic that will continue to serve the community and hopefully serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come,” she said.

Practicing dentistry in a developing country like Tanzania isn’t always simple or easy.

For example, basic necessities like power and water are not always predictable.

Politics also play a factor.

Upon Pham’s arrival in Tanzania, the government seized an MRI shipping container filled with $10,000 worth of supplies and placed a hefty $23,000 tariff on the goods.

Fortunately, the container was eventually released free of charge, and MRI was able to move forward with the expedition.

It isn’t easy for Pham to leave her three daughters and husband in Mukilteo when she travels to far-off and unknown countries to serve, but she hopes the message her work is sending makes the separation worth it.

“I feel it sends a strong message to the young girls that even someone like myself from challenging circumstances can rise above, and dreams do come true with passion and hard work and faith,” Pham said.

Service and sacrifice brings the Pham family together, and she hopes it will do the same for the rest of the world.

“The world becomes a smaller place when we foster a global perspective in our outreach,” Pham said.





Pham standing in front of the Barikiwa Medical Center, a clinic which she helped raise funds to create. (Courtesy of: Nhi Pham)
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