e-mail Print Share

Dr. Summerhays visits Rosebud Reservation

July 25, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin


Thank you: Marty Jones, clinic director of St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic, and Father John Hatcher, director of the St. Francis Mission, present ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays, center, with a traditional star quilt as a sign of their appreciation to organized dentistry for its continued support of the volunteer clinic, which has been providing free dental care to the Rosebud people since 2012.
Rosebud, S.D. — Her presidency has taken her all over the world, but her visit to the Rosebud Reservation is one that will stand out long after Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays exits her ADA office.

Dr. Summerhays, along with her husband Soames Summerhays, and Dr. Steve Geiermann, senior manager with the ADA's Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, visited the Rosebud Reservation July 15 to hear and see firsthand the health care challenges that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe faces. Joining Dr. Summerhays were Paul Knecht, executive director, South Dakota Dental Association, and Dr. Ed Vigna, a past ADA trustee and SDDA consultant.

"It was a high priority to visit Rosebud," said Dr. Summerhays. "I was aware of the challenges the Lakota people face, but to see it firsthand was very impactful. The social issues the Rosebud tribe faces are heartbreaking."  

During the visit, Dr. Summerhays met with Ms. Evelyn Espinoza, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's director of health administration, to listen to the tribe's health care needs and concerns, especially where poor oral health impacts overall health. Ms. Espinosa invited the contingent to observe her family's Sun Dance celebration and to interact with other tribal members.  

"It was an honor to be invited to attend the Sun Dance," said Dr. Summerhays.

After listening to the concerns of many tribal elders, Dr. Summerhays offered the ADA's assistance to support the tribe in pursuing optimal oral health as integral to overall health.

"The community health representatives are members of the tribe.  They know the families and their needs. They are trusted," Dr. Summerhays said. "Funding training for more community health representatives and Community Dental Health Coordinators to work together would be tremendously positive in improving oral health by addressing individual specific needs, whether it is transportation, increasing oral health literacy, or securing appointments."

In addition to dental care needs, the tribe also is burdened by high rates of early childhood caries, diabetes, obesity, suicide, substance abuse and unemployment.

The group also visited the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic, which is a collaboration of the St. Francis Mission, the South Dakota Dental Association and Delta Dental of South Dakota, with support from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. The volunteer clinic has been providing free dental care to the Rosebud people since 2012.

Father John Hatcher, director of the St. Francis Mission, and Marty Jones, RDH, clinic director, presented Dr. Summerhays with a traditional star quilt as a sign of their appreciation to organized dentistry for its continued support of their efforts.

For more information about volunteering at the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic, contact Ms. Jones by email at marty.jones@sfmission.net or by calling 1-605-747-2142 or 1-605-319-1275. Out-of-state dentists interested in volunteering must first receive a temporary license to practice in South Dakota. For more information, contact Mr. Knecht or Brenda Goeden at the South Dakota Dental Association office by calling 1-605-224-9133 or emailing paul.knecht@sddental.org or brenda.goeden@sddental.org.

For more information about the St. Francis Mission Dental Clinic visit http://sfmdental.com/.