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2009 Tarrson Award winner gears up for the future

Las Vegas—It’s one thing to establish a charitable dental clinic, but it’s another thing altogether to sustain it. The ADA Foundation 2009 Tarrson Award winner—the Sergeant Clint Ferrin Dental Clinic—is not only a stronger program today than at its inception in 2008, but is gearing up to someday establish branches at other universities nationwide.

“My greatest hope is to see other schools incorporate it,” said Dr. John Ferrin, who founded the clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine in memory of his brother, a member of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who died while serving in Iraq.

“We have a wonderful foundation. We want to fine-tune it even more and then be able to hand someone the book showing them from point A to point Z what you need to do if you want to reach out to veterans in this way.”

Dr. Ferrin was a student when he founded the clinic. He has since graduated from UNLV and is in the midst of a periodontics residency at the University of Kentucky.

But he left his brother’s clinic in the hands of capable and passionate keepers.
“I hand-picked people who I could tell had a real desire and willingness to spend extra time out of dental school to reach out to veterans,” said Dr. Ferrin, who is a National Guard soldier.

Since Dr. Ferrin’s departure, the UNLV student leaders have continued assertive efforts to raise funds and other resources to grow the clinic, which occurs on select Saturdays at UNLV. Since 2009, students and faculty have treated as many as 40 veterans per clinic, more than doubling the number treated at its inception.

Clinic president Todd Davis, a third-year dental student, regularly reaches out to the community of practicing dentists in Las Vegas for assistance to treat veterans that the clinic can’t treat due to overload or medical complications, such as a patient recently with severe idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.

“Because of his platelet levels we couldn’t treat him at UNLV,” Mr. Davis said. “The faculty said it was too complicated medically for the dental students to take on.” 

Mr. Davis reached out to an endodontist who is part-time faculty at UNLV to complete root canals on the patient. He also found a general dentist willing to donate his services.

“That’s one of things that we want to keep doing,” Mr. Davis said. “When we can’t see patients, find another way that we can get it done. We were able to donate all the fixed prosthodontics, so the doctor didn’t have to pick up that cost.”

Dr. Ferrin, who is looking forward to starting another Sergeant Clint Ferrin clinic at University of Kentucky, counts the ADA Foundation Tarrson Award as momentous to the clinic’s early days when the clinic had a single lab donating materials. “The Tarrson Award really helped to get the ball rolling and now we have several fixed and removable prosthodontics labs,” including ones out of state, Dr. Ferrin said.

The award also helped bring attention to the program. “The funding was great, but one of the great things, too, is that it helped us get our message out,” Dr. Ferrin said.

The ADA Foundation created the award in 2003 in honor of Bud Tarrson, former chief executive officer and owner of the John O. Butler Co. and an oral health philanthropist. His widow, Linda Tarrson, continues to be actively involved in the program as a way to honor his memory.

For more information, visit the Sergeant Clint Ferrin Dental Clinic online at www.veteransdentistry.org.