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Apple Tree Dental collaborating with Mayo Clinic to foster medical-dental partnership

September 27, 2019

By David Burger

 Apple Tree Dental collaborating with Mayo Clinic to foster medical-dental partnership

Announcement: Apple Tree Dental co-founder and CEO Dr. Michael J. Helgeson appears at a Sept. 17 ceremony with partners involved in the partnership at the Mayo Clinic Health System campus in Fairmont, Minnesota. From left to right: James R. Hebl, M.D., regional vice president, Mayo Clinic Health System; Minnesota state Sen. Julie Rosen; Amy K. Long, site administrator, Fairmont Mayo Clinic Health System; Wade H. Abed II, Schmeeckle Foundation trustee; Fred Krahmer, lead trustee for the Schmeeckle Foundation; Shirley Maschoff, Schmeeckle Foundation trustee; Jim Teubner, Schmeeckle Foundation trustee; and Dr. Helgeson

Fairmont, Minn. — A unique medical-dental collaboration is taking place in the small rural city of Fairmont in southern Minnesota.

The Minnesota nonprofit, Apple Tree Dental, whose CEO and co-founder, Dr. Michael J. Helgeson, is a member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice’s National Elder Care Advisory Committee, announced in early September that it is the recipient of a multiyear grant pledge from the Schmeeckle Foundation.

The foundation has pledged $2.39 million over five years to help launch the new Apple Tree Dental-Fairmont Center for Dental Health, located within the Fairmont campus of the Mayo Clinic Health System, one of the most admired and recognizable names in medical care.

“The needs in the area are enormous,” said Dr. Helgeson, noting that the community near the Iowa border lacks adequate access to dental care.

It is estimated that when operating at full capacity, the dental clinic will be able to treat more than 4,800 patients annually. Fairmont is the county seat of Martin County, with about 10,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Apple Tree Dental has a 34-year track record of success in delivering dental services in both rural and urban communities,” said Wade H. Abed II, a Schmeeckle Foundation trustee, in a statement. “The Apple Tree Dental team put together a thorough and intentional plan. We’ve come to understand that Apple Tree Dental is also an innovator in the marketplace at delivering dental care in the field. We hope that this new clinic has a positive impact on Martin County’s overall health and well-being.”

Apple Tree Dental was founded in 1985 to address the unmet dental needs of people facing barriers to care. In 2018, Apple Tree provided more than 96,000 dental visits and screenings in Minnesota to low-income children and families in rural and urban areas, children and adults with disabilities, minorities and new immigrants, mental health patients, elders living in nursing and long-term care facilities and more.

Adding a dental center to the widely respected Mayo Clinic campus will benefit all the area’s residents, Dr. Helgeson said.

More than 1,000 residents are on the waiting list for dental care at Apple Tree’s nearest clinic in Madelia, about 30 miles away, said Amanda Siem, who will be the new dental center’s director.

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center based in Rochester, Minnesota, focused on integrated clinical practice, education and research. It employs more than 4,500 physicians and scientists, along with another 58,400 administrative and allied health staff. The Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the needs of people in more than 60 communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Amy Long, Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont site administrator, welcomed the partnership, citing their shared goals.

“It’s our mission to provide the highest-quality health care close to home, and dental care is an important part of a person’s overall health,” Ms. Long said. “We are excited to welcome Apple Tree Dental onto our campus and into our community.”

She said that the medical providers at the existing clinic regularly see the impact of untreated dental conditions on patients’ overall health. Ms. Long also added that the emergency room at the clinic is often visited by patients with urgent dental needs and that visits to the ER could be decreased by the preventive care offered through a dental clinic.

Phase I of the project will include recruiting and hiring dentists and staff for the new clinic and, in early 2020, Apple Tree mobile dental offices will be used to create an Outreach Dental Clinic to immediately provide care.

“Patients will be able to gain access to comprehensive dental services right away,” Dr. Helgeson said.

During Phase II of the project, Apple Tree will remodel within the existing Mayo Clinic site for the new center, which is planning to open in early 2021.

The Schmeeckle Foundation is a private family foundation serving Martin County, with core focuses that include early childhood care and education, as well as serving those with disabilities and elderly. Its mission is to carry on the legacy of long-time Martin County resident Juanita Ellen (Teubner) Schmeeckle, awarding grants to support the betterment of the residents of Martin County.

To learn more about Apple Tree Dental, visit appletreedental.org.