Inspired to Help: Colorado Springs Couple makes global impact
By Becky Hurley
You don’t meet folks like Don and Cathy Couchman every day.
For more than 20 years, this dedicated Colorado Springs dentist and owner of Couchman Center for Complete Dentistry and his wife have worked together to build a thriving local practice. At the same time, however, they’ve reached out to help others throughout the world, providing dental services to families who might otherwise not have had access to them.
Dr. Don also helps train dentists in other countries on in important general and surgical practices. Their mission-inspired work has taken them to orphanages and rural villages throughout Africa, Central America and South America.
Imagine the cost and work involved – not only to travel to remote areas – but to bring heavy boxes of dental equipment and in one case, office staffers to help.
“Our first trip was to Mar del Plata in Argentina in 1997,” Dr. Don says, adding that he coordinated with the region’s local dental society. “We knew that people, especially in rural areas, were sick and dying. They wouldn’t get help unless we went in.”
Dental hygiene, he explains is a contributor to overall physical health. Toxins and bacteria created by dental infections and circulated through the blood stream affect every cell and organ in the body. As a result, the lack of good dental care can affect a person’s longevity as well as their economic and social outlook. It also impacts the ability of children to get an education.
Accompanied by his wife Cathy – an artist/illustrator whose career included working for publishers Harper Row and Scott Foresman and a devoted 30-year therapeutic riding instructor – Couchman mentors by teaching classes in general dentistry, implant dentistry and bone grafts. He and Cathy also help patients in need of everyday fillings, extractions, periodontal work, root canals and more.
Among the couple’s most recent mission destinations: two visits to an orphanage in New Hope, north of Kampala, Uganda. Donated equipment helped facilitate the work.
“We had a Ugandan connection – the nephew of the president of Uganda who as a doctor had overseen HIV patient treatment,” Dr. Don explains.
Numerous invitations have followed. Long flights to reach their destinations are accompanied by serious logistical challenges.
“We brought over our own portable dental chairs, hand pieces and surgical equipment. Up to 50 pounds can be checked as luggage.”
Some moments were especially memorable. Cathy recalls assisting her husband on a recent trip to Uganda by sterilizing equipment in a pressure cooker she’d brought from home.
“We heated it with hot coals brought over by local villagers,” she says, adding that the dental station set up near the headwaters of Lake Victoria. “It was in a covered area, but open air. I could see the monkeys in the trees while we worked.”
She also recalls a time in Mar Del Plata when her background as an artist led to a painting demonstration for local villagers.
“When the Perons were in power, artists were often in danger,” she says. “The people asked what inspired me. I told them Proverbs: 21.”
So in addition to creating a successful Colorado Springs practice, one Colorado Springs dentist has found time to make a difference in the world. From a Native American reservation near the Canadian border to missions into undeveloped areas of Honduras, Guatemala, Tierra Del Fuego or in small Ugandan village and beyond, Dr. Don and Cathy Couchman have changed hundreds of lives.