Once again, Mother Nature has humbled our great nation. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have left us with many cities - large and small - that have been destroyed, leaving inestimable human misery in its wake. I was glued to the television set watching these stories unfold, and to the Internet reading the news of friends who were located in these areas. The news was so overwhelming that the only answer seemed to be prayer.
I know that many of us have family and friends who were touched by these tragedies. We will continue to struggle to find meaning in so much destruction, loss of life, and families torn apart and displaced. The victims of these storms had to survive until help arrived.
The strength of the human spirit could be seen as help streamed into the stricken areas. People were helping people, giving comfort and aid, moving the victims to safe places, and just being kind to each other. Volunteers began showing up at the centers across the country without being asked. It was their response to the question, “What can I do?”
Many people have been moved to action in response to the huge number of people who are suffering. In addition to the tremendous efforts by our government, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, and many churches throughout the United States are collecting needed supplies and cash donations. In St. Louis, a small family-owned grocery chain recently collected 22 tractor trailers full of “stuff” and $25,000 in cash for the survivors in centers across the states.
In this group of people who have survived Katrina and Rita are a special group who need our help and our prayers - members of our dental family. The American Dental Association estimates more than 1,000 dental practices were affected by Katrina alone. The “trickle down” effect of this is tremendous! The lives of so many have been touched. Dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental business assistants, dental laboratory technicians, dental salespeople, dental manufacturers, and dental teachers in dental schools and colleges have all had their lives drastically changed from these two storms.
Patients of dental practices in these areas have been literally scattered to the winds. Will they return and rebuild? Will the dentists be able to return and rebuild? Nobody has immediate answers to these questions. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, what is our extended dental family to do? I personally know a dentist who has lost his home and his office. He and his wife are making some of the hardest decisions of their lives. The Missouri State Dental Board is streamlining its licensing process to license dentists and hygienists in two weeks rather than three to four months. I assume that other states are doing the same. (If they can do it in two weeks now, it makes you wonder why it normally takes months.)
So, some displaced dentists and hygienists could come to Missouri to practice and rebuild their lives. I also have heard of several offices in and around St. Louis that are asking for dentists and hygienists.
A number of our dental organizations have stepped in and offered help. Check out ADA.org for more information, and please be generous. The November issue of Dental Economics® will include a complete disaster checkup. Do you have the coverage you would need to survive a disaster? This is an important question for all of us, and hurricanes Katrina and Rita have served as the reminder.
Most importantly, keep our dental colleagues and all the hurricane survivors in your thoughts and prayers as they begin to rebuild their lives and their dreams.
Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor - e-mail: [email protected]
Toll-free phone number: (866) 274-4500