JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It’s a Thursday and Dr. Misee Harris is busy working on patients.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Dr. Harris said, as she comforted the child being worked on in her dental chair.
The sound of dental equipment whirs away in the background. The work is tedious. The patients small and sometimes scared.
But, Dr. Harris believes every child should have reason to smile.
“Her main thing is that she loves to see children smile,” Lindsay Centeno said. Centeno nominated Dr. Harris for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness. “We’ve had kids come in here and say that they’ve gotten bullied or made fun of just because they had bad teeth and that’s sad and it really touches her heart. She really wants to help children like that.”
Dr. Harris remembers what it was like as one of two children growing up in a single-parent home in Columbia, Tennessee.
“My Mom had a really bad toothache when I was younger and was unable to afford a root canal and so she had to get that tooth pulled,” Dr. Harris said.
Little could she know that someday, Dr. Misee Harris would break down barriers becoming the first African American female to graduate from the Pediatric Residency Program at the University of Kentucky.
“Oftentimes, dental care just goes under the radar,” Dr. Harris said. “It’s very important. It’s the number one cause of missing school days for children in America and it’s not talked about enough.”
Dr. Harris’ heart for helping others got its start in a most unusual opportunity.
“I’ve always been a big fan of The Bachelor,” Dr. Harris said.
She auditioned for it and then campaigned to be the first black Bachelorette. The experience led her to Los Angeles.
“I was able to do dentistry pro-bono because I was able to do it then,” Dr. Harris said.
Living in LA, she started a blog and worked on dental cases for free.
“I would fly close to the border of Mexico,” Dr. Harris explained. “There we would do lots of free dental work for people who didn’t have any insurance.”
She continued to offer up her dental services for those in need as she arrived in Jonesboro in August of 2016. She made a contest available nationwide for a free smile. A military spouse from Alaska won.
“She changed her smile and she changed her life,” Lauren “Lou” Lee, a dental assistant at Pediatric Dentistry of Jonesboro, said.
Chasity Wilburn never smiled and military health insurance couldn’t pay for all that she needed done.
“With that insurance, there’s a cap and it only covers $1,500 a year per family,” Lee said. “She had been quoted about $30,000 worth of work.”
That was more than her family could afford.
“She had three kids, a wonderful husband, a family and no smile,” Lee said.
Dr. Harris works to provide mouth guards for the Arkansas State University football team each year and she is one of several dentists who offer up free services once a year at First National Bank Arena. People line up for hours before the doors open.
“I also worked in the Appalachian Mountains for a while,” Dr. Harris said. “ I stayed there for a month in a cabin there and had a mobile unit and I was able to provide dental care to some of the coal miners.”
It is the respect Dr. Harris has earned from her office staff that led to this.
“Surprise!” yelled office staff and dental assistants when Dr. Harris came to the front of the office.
Her crew had kept the Gr8 Acts of Kindness reveal a big surprise.
“You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness!,” I announced to a stunned Dr. Harris.
The crowd counts as $408 is placed into her hands.
“So on behalf of First Community Bank, we are honored to recognize you for what you do for the community to make it a better place to live,” Allen Williams, Community Bank President, said to Dr. Harris.
“Thanks guys! You are like my family,” Dr. Harris said.
“There’s not a day that goes by that she is not helping someone,” Lee said.
Dr. Harris decided to donate her $408 in winnings to an individual who needs dental work in honor of her classmate, Dr. Kendra Hatcher, who was murdered in Dallas.
They went to dental school together at the University of Kentucky.