By Paulette Ballard
As told by Dr. Herbert Mills


A parishioner in New York, where I was in dental school, asked if I could help a Cambodian family with some of their dental care. 

The mother and father could not speak English; therefore, it was difficult to communicate with them.

The mother, who we called Mama San, began picking up on some English and communicating better as time went on. Papa San never learned English, but their children learned to speak English exceptionally well. 

We provided dental care for this family and got to know them very well. Their children were very intelligent and did extremely well in school. 

This family came here on a boat, lived the best way they could in a new country, taught their children how to better themselves here in the United States and their children went on to become college graduates. 

It was absolutely thrilling to see this family come from nothing and eventually have college-educated children whose futures would be much brighter. The pride on their faces was certainly worth more than being paid for dental services.

I feel privileged to have been able to give dental care to this family and to participate in this patient’s education.


Paulette Ballard collects moving, funny or interesting everyday stories. If you have a story to submit for the “Moments” column, email Paulette at Include your name and telephone number.