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Dr. Jack Cottrell

Making a Difference, One Toothe at aTime


Jonathan van Bilsen

March 15, 2018

Life offers us many opportunities, and most people try and take advantage of those that come their way. There are very few individuals who use those opportunities for the betterment of others. One of those people is our very own, Jack Cottrell.

Dr. Jack runs a very successful dental practice in town, and has for the past forty years. There are few folks in our township who do not know of him, but more importantly there are at least 60,000 people in third world countries, who have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jack Cottrell.

Jack, the son of a Welsh immigrant father and a Torontonian mother, was born in Toronto, and quickly realized the prospects of a solid education. “My mother worked hard all her life,” Jack explained. “When she had an opportunity to further her education she took it.” He paused a minute. “The year she turned 65 she graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Something she had always wanted.” I saw the pride and respect in his eyes as he spoke.

Jack had always been fond of Port Perry, and when he graduated from Dental College, decided to move here. He still practices in the same building on Queen Street where he started. “I love this town, because of the people,” Jack said. “I may have met most of them as patients, but they have become friends, and every time I walk down Queen Street, I have an opportunity to chat with many of them.”

Twelve years ago Jack developed a strategy in an effort to assist people in ‘less-have’ countries. Together with physician Tony Brown, they recruited 8 – 10 healthcare professionals and travelled to countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Haiti, to assess the opportunity of helping people in need.

The project became very successful and the group, made up of healthcare professionals from across Canada, regularly travels to these nations to give first-class medical care. It needs to be noted this is all done at the expense of each caregiver: airfare, accommodations, meals and medical supplies, not to mention their service.

Jack explained about a community of 200,000 in crime infested El Salvador, where there was absolutely no medical facility or service. “We treated the people and the gratitude visible on their faces was emotionally satisfying,” Jack explained. “Treating children who had been crying themselves to sleep due to pain and then, seeing them pain-free and happy, is a wonderful gift.”

Jack, Tony and the team decided to take the project one step further, and began a fundraising campaign to build and staff a medical facility in that village. They raised the funds, and now a physician and dentist work there on a regular basis.

Operating a busy practice, as well as going on medical mission trips would be enough for most people, but for Jack Cottrell it only scratches the surface. Jack has always been a supporter of universal standards in dentistry, and in 1997 was elected president of the Ontario Dental Association. In 2005 Jack went national and became president of the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). Six years later, in 2011, he joined the board of the World Dental Federation (FDI), a group which serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide. Four years later Jack was asked to become Treasurer of the organization, the second highest level attainable.

In his role, Jack helps lead the organization in developing health policies, continuing education programs, speaking as a unified voice for dentistry in international advocacy, and supporting member associations in global oral health promotion activities.

“It is so important to ensure every dentist in every country has access to the latest technology, products and techniques,” Jack said. “We constantly strive to raise the bar, so we can bring a higher level of healthcare to the global population.”

The organization, the oldest of its kind in the world (started in Paris in 1900), is based in Zurich, the world’s centre for many organizations of this type. They have an extremely close working relationship with the World Health Organization, and have become a very important conduit of the WHO.

I asked Jack if he enjoyed the travelling, and to my surprise he said he is always anxious to get back to his practice. He seldom tacks vacation onto any of his trips and when he visits Zurich every three months, he flies out on Wednesday night and makes sure he is back in his office Monday mornings.

His staff of 31 adheres to the office policy of delivering a very high level of value to patients. “You are only as good as your lowest common denominator,” Jack clarified, and the level of quality in their office is visibly high. It is no wonder Port Perry Dental Centre has been selected ‘Best Dental Office” by the Reader’s Choice Awards every year since the honour’s inception in 1999.

Twenty years ago, Jack and the office began an emergency service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This fantastic contribution to the community assists many people who need emergency treatment after most offices are closed.

Dr. Jack Cottrell is an asset to our community. More than that, through his generosity, both in time and commitment, he is an asset to dental care around the world. I do not know how he fits everything into his busy schedule, but for all of us in the community, we are glad he does. For more information on the charity Speroway, and how you can make a difference, visit

Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.

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