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‘I’m totally blown away’: Island dentist earns citizenship medal for pandemic service

Rachel Staples among the first to reopen clinic to provide emergency dental care
Dr. Rachel Staples, seen here inside her Colwood dental clinic, will receive the B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship in a virtual ceremony Thursday. The honour recognizes her efforts to reopen for emergency dental care in the early days of the pandemic. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

To say Rachel Staples has been through a lot is an understatement. She has battled and won against cancer, she has lost a teenage son and she has survived being hit by a car as a cyclist.

Despite it all, she has remained dedicated to helping others in need, and for her extraordinary efforts during the early and darkest days of the pandemic, she is now being recognized with the province’s second-highest honour.

In a virtual ceremony Thursday, Staples will receive the Medal of Good Citizenship. It’s in recognition of her efforts to ensure her dental practices were open and available to provide emergency dental services in Colwood, at a time when nearly every other practice was closed and grappling with how to deal with newly introduced public health restrictions.

“Dr. Staples’ willingness to unhesitatingly work to alleviate the suffering of dental emergencies is the very embodiment of the virtue of good citizenship; her selflessness and dedication to the community are a constant inspiration,” reads her award citation, released earlier this week. “In the early days of this pandemic, when so much was still unknown and terrifying, she did not hesitate once when someone asked for help.”

“I’m totally blown away by this award. It’s so nice you can feel appreciated in difficult times,” said Staples, who also operates a dental clinic in downtown Victoria.

Knowing that a group of patients and staff nominated her for the award makes it more special, she added, quickly pointing out that her 82-year-old mother, Carol Ann Staples, also deserves credit for spending hours sewing despite arthritis.

Together, they made gowns and pre-emptively purchased personal protective equipment for the dental clinics, allowing them to reopen just 10 days after it and other dentist practices were closed by public health restrictions.

“We operated as an emergency clinic to help people avoid having to go to hospitals while they were dealing with COVID.”

Staples said the award will inspire her to continue helping others, especially when there are so many young people also receiving the honour. She is currently developing plans to host a free dental work day at her Colwood clinic to help those who otherwise are not able to access dental care get important work done.

“I think we don’t always know the story behind the face, and I think everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, so we try to do that here every day.”

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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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