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ADA to host Mission of Mercy during Annual Session

'Coming together we can make a difference'

April 15, 2013

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

New Orleans—Annual Session-goers will have a unique opportunity to participate in a Mission of Mercy charity dental clinic Nov. 3 in New Orleans.

The ADA hopes to serve some 1,000 patients in need of dental care on the last day of the Oct. 31-Nov. 3 Annual Session.

The ADA will host the MOM event in conjunction with the America's Dentists Care Foundation with the support of the Louisiana Dental Association and the New Orleans Dental Association. Dentists, dental team members, dental and dental team students, office staff, families and friends (age 18 and older) who will be in New Orleans for the Annual Session are encouraged to volunteer for the event.

“The ADA MOM program is a commitment to the public's oral health of the highest order,” said Dr. Mark Huberty, a Sheboygan Falls, Wis., dentist and chair for the event. “While we're all bound by our commitment to the public, few other programs are so personal and felt so deeply as this very direct volunteering effort to help those most in need yet unable to help themselves. There are no barriers to care other than standing in line and being well enough to safely receive it. In addition, this program puts a face on a problem too big for any one of us alone to fix, but coming together we can make a difference.”

Dr. Huberty is one of several organizers for the event and all are MOM program veterans from around the country, said Lani Becker, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Dental Association and ADCF board member.

“This is the first MOM program that will actively recruit dental professionals from around the country to participate at one location,” said Ms. Becker. “And the program will need about 800 volunteers, including dentists, team members, clerical and support staff and more. We hope that Annual Session-goers will consider this a great team-building activity for their office staff or a family event with their spouses and children 18 and older.”

MOM volunteers serve in a multitude of roles during a typical event. Roughly half of the 800 or so volunteers are dental professionals who provide triage services, radiology, diagnostics and treatment, including restorative and specialty care. Other volunteers—students, laboratory technicians and front office specialists—also help the massive MOM clinics run smoothly. About 200 nonclinical volunteers cover support services from registration, patient greeting and escorting, conducting exit interviews, site set-up and teardown, parking attendants and many more roles.

Dr. Terry Dickinson, Virginia Dental Association executive director, launched the first MOM program in Virginia in 2000. This year, 27 states will host one or more charitable dental clinics.

“I have a great sense of pride that hundreds of thousands of volunteers have joined forces through the Mission of Mercy to help people in need. What MOM does is define who we are as individuals and collectively as a profession as people who care and want to give something back,” Dr. Dickinson said. “Participating in a MOM is an opportunity for us to share our gifts.”

The necessity of organizing charitable dental clinics on this scale, he added, is a result of dental care for adults being an optional benefit nationwide. “We only see these patients in emergency situations in Virginia and it's the same situation in other states as well. As much as the MOM project is not an answer to the access to care issue, it does provide hope to those who are financially unable to have access to dental care on their own.”

Dr. Dickinson is no stranger to MOM events in New Orleans. In February 2006, MOM organizers from the Virginia, Kansas, Texas and Open Door Clinic (Alamance County, N.C.) programs and Remote Area Medical transformed the Audubon Zoo into a temporary dental clinic to help some 4,000 patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This year's New Orleans MOM will run from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 3. A new Web page, ADA Mission of Mercy will go live in mid-April with information on registration, licensing requirements and other details. Volunteers can register for a half or full day. Volunteers do not have to be registered for the Annual Session to participate in the MOM event.

“ADCF operates on the 'see one, do one, teach one' philosophy,” Ms. Becker said. “Dentists who come from a state that doesn't yet have a MOM program, or haven't had a chance to participate in one of their state's MOM events, should consider this a great opportunity to come and see how an event is organized. It can be overwhelming until you see how it's broken down into manageable components. And then you see the great need of people who've come for dental care, and you're hooked. It's a great way to give back to your profession and to the public.”

“This event will certainly serve to let our community know that those in the dental profession seek continually to find ways to assist those who are most in need,” said Dr. Maria R. Burmaster, a general dentist in Marrero, La., and one of the event's organizers. “We want to spread the message that we care about the health of our neighbors and are to eager share our talents and abilities. This event will provide a platform for many in the New Orleans area to be introduced to dental care that they may otherwise never be able to afford. I will certainly be a part of the volunteer corps for this event, and I am excited to work with colleagues from across the country.”

For more information or to register as a volunteer, visit ADA Mission of Mercy or ADA 2014 Annual Session.