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UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day surpasses goals

Dental and nursing students, others, collaborate for daylong event


Local volunteer: Dr. James E. Sanderson Jr., center, a UAB dental school alumnus and general dentist from Birmingham, is assisted by his office staff in treating a patient.
Birmingham, Ala.—More than 500 volunteers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, the UAB School of Nursing and Cahaba Valley Health Care spent part of the fall break helping the less fortunate in the Birmingham community during the first ever UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day.

Students, local dentists, health agencies and companies served more than 350 people Oct. 9, providing cleanings, restorations and extractions for low-income and underserved people in the Birmingham-area community at no cost.

"As students we are taught that we must not only learn how to be exceptional dentists but also how to put our skills to use helping others," said Ross Isbell, president, UAB chapter of the American Student Dental Association. "To that purpose, many of my peers have spent time providing care on international mission trips. We are proud to have had the opportunity this year to serve the needy right here in Birmingham."

"The bottom line is that this is a need for a large part of our population in this area, and we want to help make a positive impact and contribution to our community," said Dr. Michael Reddy, dean of UAB School of Dentistry. "Oral health care goes beyond a smile, and research shows that the infection and inflammation that can occur in the mouth affect our overall health," Reddy said. "We're privileged to do what we can to help those in the community in need."


Faculty support: From left, Dr. Perng-Ru Liu, chair, UAB Department of Restorative Sciences; Dr. Mike Reddy, UAB dental school dean; and Dr. Conan Davis, chair of UAB Dentistry Cares and director of community collaborations; confer with Ginger Hattaway, UAB business officer, during the event.
Patients also received blood pressure checks and oral cancer screenings. School of Nursing students provided additional health care education to patients, reviewed medical histories and more. Each patient also received extensive entry and exit oral health care counseling.

"Our school has a saying that 'to whom much is given, much is required,'" said Dr. Conan Davis, chair of UAB Dentistry Cares and director of community collaborations. "We've been given skills, abilities and resources, and we want to give back to our community. We believe it is part of our responsibility."

Volunteers had planned for 250 patients to participate in the daylong event, but an hour after the clinic opened, more than 110 had already registered and by noon, the number had surpassed 250.

The School of Dentistry worked with Cahaba Valley Health Care, a local nonprofit health care organization that provides health care services for the underserved, primarily Hispanic, communities in Jefferson and Shelby Counties; and One Roof, a networking and referral agency of service providers for homeless; to coordinate the event. Most of the patients came from homeless shelters in the Jefferson and Shelby County areas, but walk-ups were accepted.


Students participate: UAB dental students Claire DeShazer, right, and, Katie Bell volunteer with a patient.
"Essentially, once you're past the age of 19 in the state of Alabama, you don't have any dental coverage," Reddy said. "If you're a little down on your luck, like some of the people I've met today, there's nowhere to go. Anyone who has ever needed some preventive care or just had a solid toothache can tell you how important it is to have access to care. Unfortunately, there are many in our own community who have very limited access, and the access they do have is mainly charitable. We're hoping this event will raise awareness of the need for better access to care."

Other groups partnering with UAB included local dentists, Henry Schein Dental Supply, Oral Arts Dental Laboratories, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Alabama Dental Association, the Birmingham District Dental Society, Christ Health Center, Johnson and Johnson, Brasseler USA, and 3M ESPE Dental Products.

A five-minute video with highlights of the UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day features comments and thanks from several patients who were treated.

"I'm extremely grateful and ecstatically happy about what they've done for me today," said one man. "Now I can smile. … Christmas has come early this year."

The video can be found at YouTube.com. Search for UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day. Or visit UAB.edu.