Dr. Cecile Sebastian has been helping bring smiles to people’s faces through her dental office, Smile Innovations Hawai’i, and her work in the community. Since 2009, she has been a member of Japan-America Society of Hawai’i (JASH), whose mission is “to elevate understanding and friendship between the people of Japan and the United States through the special and unique perspective of Hawai’i.” Both of her children, Calais and Carter, participated in the organization’s Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention in Fukuoka, Japan, where they served as student ambassadors, joining 200 other students from more than 40 countries in this cultural-exchange occasion.
“It was such an educational experience for them,” says Sebastian. “They learned a lot through this program.”
She has also been a loyal supporter of JASH’s Bridge Awards Dinner & Silent Auction — which will be held online from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 — both volunteering at the event and donating dental products and services for the fundraiser. The Bridge Awards Dinner will be held Oct. 3 at the ‘Alohilani Resort Waikīkī Beach. For more information, visit jashawaii.org/2023bridgeawards.
In addition to JASH, Sebastian has been a volunteer religious education teacher at Mary, Star of the Sea Church for 20 years and has participated in numerous community service projects with Notre Dame Club of Hawai’i. Sebastian also enjoys celebrating her birthday by making sandwiches for the homeless and distributing them to Institute for Human Services or Next Step Shelter.
Sebastian says her love for community can be traced back to her upbringing in the Philippines. “Where we grew up, there was so much suffering,” she says. She recalls a time when the homeless would trespass and take fruits from her family’s trees. But rather than getting upset and chasing them away, her father would open the gates and let them in.
“Seeing my dad do that, just made me realize how lucky we are and we should share what we got,” she says. “You can always share. There is always someone there with less than us.”
The same philosophy is present in her business, Smile Innovations Hawai’i, which she opened in 1995. Since then, her staff has conducted food collection drives for Hawai’i Foodbank, often collecting donations from other dentists in the area. She would also gather colleagues and hold Future Dentists Symposiums, where they’d present lectures to college and high school students to encourage them to enter the dental industry.
Recently, Sebastian has been focusing on helping her patients — both children and adults — with obstructive sleep apnea. She notes sleep apnea has been linked to other diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and depression. It also impacts children differently and has been associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“It’s a multipronged approach. We work with physicians, myofunctional therapists and speech therapists to help our patients improve breathing through their noses,” she says.
Whether it’s helping her patients live healthier lifestyles, or through her philanthropic acts, Sebastian continues to leave a legacy of kindness.
— Jocelyn Lansangan