The following article on Partners members Ruthi and Rankin Skinner appeared in Perspectives, a quarterly magazine published by The University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.
Rankin Skinner was just a young boy working on his grandfather’s farm when the spirit of volunteerism and helping his neighbors was first instilled in him, as he saw neighbors helping neighbors as needed sowing, growing and harvesting crops.
Skinner, a 1969 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, has dedicated his life – and his passion for dentistry to the people of Kentucky and far beyond.
“I learned you can’t just be involved in your own life, you have to help out others in need,” Skinner said. “A life of service is where you are happiest and it’s a part of my life.”
Skinner’s career in dentistry began with the U.S. Navy right after graduation from the College of Dentistry until he went into private practice in Winchester, Kentucky in 1971. Over the course of the past 40 years, Skinner has been actively involved with countless volunteer organizations, including Partners of the Americas, since 1985.
Partners of the Americas is an international network that connects individuals, volunteers, institutions, businesses and communities to serve others through lasting partnerships. Currently, Partners has 120 volunteer chapters linked in 60 partnerships. Chapters in the U.S. form partnerships with chapters in countries or states in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each chapter is a private, non-profit institution that works to improve the quality of life of others. One such U.S. chapter is the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partners.
In 2002, Skinner and his fellow volunteers with Partners started the Kentucky/Ecuador Dental Sealant Project, working with 15 clinics in the capital city of Quito and another 15 clinics in Ibarra and surrounding communities. Ibarra is Winchester, Kentucky’s Sister City.
Dental decay in Ecuador is in the 85 percent range. In the United States, the national average is 22 percent and in Kentucky it is about 50 percent, with significantly higher rates in some areas. The goal of the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partner Sealant Project is to significantly improve children’s dental health through education, regular cleanings, and fluoride varnish and dental sealant application.
Skinner’s group hastrained 65 dentists to place sealants and later, fluoride varnish in each of these cities. They provided the material and the government dentists placed it and created a partnership with participating schools, local governments and most importantly, parents. After five years, a dramatic 50 -78 percent drop in decay was noted, from responding clinics.
Skinner’s volunteer work with Partners of the Americas is acually a family affair that involves his wife, Ruthi; their son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Jill; their daughter and son-in-law, Erin and David Smith; and Rankin’s brother and sister-in-law, Donnie and Roberta. The family was honored as the FamilyAward Winners for 2009 by United Way of the