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$100K grant will expand treatment for poor in Indiana

June 26, 2017

By Michelle Manchir


Leaders in care: Jeyanthi Bhaheetharan, left, Indiana University dental student and chair of the IU Student Outreach Clinic, and Lauren Wright, dental student and operations co-coordinator for the clinic pause for a photo in June. The clinic offers screenings, cleanings, fillings and more to low-income Indianapolis residents. IU dental student Andrew Bartels, not pictured, is vice chair of the clinic.
Indianapolis — For almost six years, many underserved residents of Indianapolis' poverty-stricken east side have relied on the Indiana University Student Outreach Clinic for dental care.

Twice a month, volunteers from the school, mostly dental students, see up to 20 patients, offering no-cost oral exams, cancer screenings, cleanings, restorations, oral biopsies and simple extractions at clinic space they pay to rent.

Now, thanks to a $100,000 grant the student clinic was awarded in June, the clinic will be able to expand services to include root canals, crowns and dentures, said Jeyanthi Bhaheetharan, IU Student Outreach Clinic chair and fourth-year dental student.

"This will help our patients become more employable and self-sufficient, by helping them regain their smile, improve chewing function and restore confidence," said Ms. Bhaheetharan.

The grant comes from a nationwide program called A Community Thrives, a USA Today Network initiative that aims to provide resources for philanthropic missions in communities connected to USA Today, according to its website. The Indianapolis Star is part of the network.

The students helped put together an application video for the grant, which featured some clinic patients talking about the importance of the dental students' work.

One disabled veteran said in the video he doesn't qualify for dental care provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and would have nowhere else to get care if it weren't for the clinic.

In 2016, the clinic volunteers treated 123 patients in 254 dental visits, according to Ms. Bhaheetharan.

"We are able to serve as a dental home for our patients," she said, adding that the clinic also serves as an important a training ground for dentistry students. In 2016, "Our dental students and dental hygiene students volunteered more than 2,000 hours last year to provide over $72,000 worth of dental care," she said.

For more information about the clinic, visit its website, soc.medicine.iu.edu.