Volunteers create success

June 1, 2003
In Atlanta, Ga., the Northern District Dental Society is well known for providing dentistry to the underserved. To further this tradition, the society has created a program to fund its efforts.

Keith Phillips, DDS

In Atlanta, Ga., the Northern District Dental Society is well known for providing dentistry to the underserved. To further this tradition, the society has created a program to fund its efforts. The 2002 "Gala for Smiles" raised $20,000 to benefit the area dental clinics, according to Hank Holderfield, executive director of the Northern District Dental Society. In addition to raising money for area clinics, the dinner and gala also raise public awareness of the tremendous dental needs in the Atlanta area. Mr. Holderfield reports that hundreds of Atlanta-area dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and support staff volunteer on a regular basis to keep the clinics and programs operating. Last year, NDDS supported five dental ministries.

The Ben Massell Clinic has been in existence for over 75 years, and serves as the "flagship" program for indigent dental care in Atlanta. The clinic receives sufficient private donations and United Way funding to allow it to have five paid employees and 85 volunteer dentists. The clinic offers a full range of dental services, including a "free denture-service" program that is heavily subsidized by the NDDS. Last year, this remarkable program served over 6,000 patients!

The Kerr Family Dental Clinic began operations in 1994 as part of Healing Hands, Inc. Dr. Wayne Kerr donated the facility and contributions by area dentists paid for renovations. The clinic has now grown to include a medical facility housed in the original building. It is operated in conjunction with Rockdale Hospital. The dental clinic has a new facility, and thanks to some very generous assistance from Sullivan-Schein Dental Company, the 18 volunteer dentists have modern equipment with which to work. Dr. Kerr is proud of the Kerr Family Dental Clinic, but humbly assigns much of the success to the many volunteers who have helped along the way: "It is hard to imagine what volunteers can do until they join together in a shared vision and make it happen. Dentists in a compassionate community set the example for others."

The Green Warren Clinic has it's origin in a community ministry currently coordinated by Dr. Edwin Burnette. Dr. Burnette retired six years ago and responded to a call from the physicians who were operating a medical clinic at the time. The physicians were seeing patients with dental infections that they did not know how to handle. The Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation agreed to have a fund-raising golf tournament which ultimately raised $75,000. A generous patron donated $90,000 worth of Coca-Cola stock. With a matching grant of $75,000 from the hospital, a 1,785 sq.-ft. addition to the medical facility was constructed and equipped. The clinic now has 44 volunteer dentists and operates three and a half to four days per week. The Green Warren Clinic treated over 3,500 patients last year, and is now in its sixth year of operation.

The Good Samaritan Health Center in downtown Atlanta is a private, nonprofit health center that provides medical, dental, counseling, and health-education services to needy citizens of the Atlanta area. The dental clinic, staffed by two dentists, two assistants, and one hygienist, is open five days a week. Services are provided to the poorest of patients at no charge, while others are charged on a sliding scale based upon their income level. The Good Samaritan Clinic has been open since 1998 and has treated more than 5,000 patients.

Christina's Smile is a nonprofit charity started by a group of dentists in Texas. The mobile clinic is housed in a specially-designed motor home that follows the PGA Senior Golf Tour. Golfers such as Bob Murphy, Chi Chi Rodriquez, and Dave Stockton serve on the advisory board for this wonderful charity. Each year during the Nationwide Senior's Tournament, Northern District members and their staffs volunteer their time, skills, and talents to treat needy children in the Atlanta area.

The wonderful success of these programs is due to the willingness of individuals to get involved in giving back to their communities. The relationship that exists between the Northern District Dental Society and these clinics stands as a model of success for the dental community.

Dr. Keith Phillips maintains a private practice in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is president and founder of The Giving Hand Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the start-up and development of free medical and dental clinics. Dr. Phillips also serves as a teaching associate at the L.D. Pankey Institute and is on the faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.

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