School of Dentistry Award Recipients
Distinguished Alumnus in Dentistry Award
ROBERT A. LINERS, D.D.S., DENT '51
In the 1970s, Dr. Robert Liners and wife Lois read an article in Catholic Digest about a New York dentist who spent his vacation working in the mountains of Honduras. Lois, a social worker, said, "We can do that."
And so began a 35-year journey of bringing dental assistance to individuals in need around the world.
“The example of my parents taught me the joy of helping people, and dentistry gave me the opportunity to remove pain, to improve appearances and to interact with patients,” Bob says.
And interact with patients Bob did. He and Lois conducted 65 missions to Bolivia; Brazil; Guatemala; Haiti; Honduras; India; Jamaica; and Mexico; and refugee camps in Cameroon; Hong Kong; Kenya; and the Philippines. Most of their patients had never owned a toothbrush.
In 1989, Bob established a full-time clinic in the rain forest of Guatemala. A similar clinic was set up in Kilimambogo, Kenya, and both clinics are staffed annually by 12 volunteer dentists from around the world. The clinics, sponsored and funded by Rotary International, focus on dental and general health education, restorations, and extractions. Local men have been trained as dental assistants, and clinic truck drivers bring the mobile clinic to impoverished remote areas of both countries.
Through the outreach of the dental clinics, mosquito nets have been placed in the Catholic hospital and two orphanages, water sources have been drilled, famine relief has been provided, and scholarships have been established to give local children the opportunity for education. The grateful Q'ueqchi in Guatemala and the many tribes who get service from the Kilimambogo Dental Clinic know a few important words of English: Rotary, Wisconsin — and Marquette University.
When he and Lois weren’t ministering abroad, Bob — who says his life has always revolved around family, church and community — had a successful dental practice in Watertown, Wis., where he served until he retired in 1988.
“Starting a new practice took time, so while I waited for footsteps in the waiting room, I read the Bible,” he says.
Bob, who received the Marquette University Alumni Service to the Community Award in 1982, is no longer able to travel overseas but continues to volunteer at local nursing homes and hospitals.
“Without Marquette, I could never have had such a meaningful life,” he says.
Fun fact: Bob said it was his family dentist in Brainerd, Minn., who planted in him the idea of getting a dental education, which at the time was beyond the financial reach of his parents. After World War II, the GI Bill “brought that old idea to the forefront,” and, even though he was 25 years old, he knew he could earn his D.D.S. Lois helped him reach that goal.