Our Dedication to the Community – Part 2
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I finished my 2 days of volunteering at this year’s Remote Area Medical event at Cal Expo. This was the second year that I spent 2 days in the dental clinic seeing patient after patient to provide free dental care.
Last year I worked in the screening clinic which moved fast and required me to see several hundred patients in the morning to triage and assess their most urgent needs. The clinic provides extractions, fillings or cleanings, so the treatment plans are pretty simple. It’s a quick assessment of their needs and the patient moves on to the next step—waiting to see a doctor.
This year I provided fillings for about 30 patients over the course of the 2 days. This was physically a little easier as I was able to stay in the same place and bring patients to me. My assistant Lindsey was fabulous at setting and cleaning up our station, grabbing patients and running around the clinic.
Lindsey also helped me keep a good perspective on my experience. The most frustrating thing I encountered this year was that there were many patients who did not seem appreciative of the work I was doing. There were hundreds of people waiting, so I clearly can only work on one or two teeth needing treatment for every patient. I felt like many of the people were ungrateful and upset that I wasn’t going to provide more work for them. My perspective was that they should feel lucky that they’re being seen at all. But, Lindsey helped me see their perspective—some of these people had been waiting overnight for treatment. They were tired, hungry, and frustrated about waiting for so long. That helped me understand why gratitude may not be the first thing on their mind. Keeping that in mind helped me feel better about my overall experience.
My Sunday in the clinic was very busy. There were about 45 dentists and oral surgeons working to see patients. Unfortunately, Monday was not the same. There were only about 20 of us and it really limited the amount of patient we could see. Fortunately for the practitioners, they stopped letting people in the doors at noon. There’s nothing worse than seeing a never ending line of people waiting. It makes it feel like your day will never end. But on Monday we could see the line disappearing slowly as we worked through the patients. It was very motivating to know we were able to take care of the people that remained.
My last patient of the day was a very nice man who had driven down from Auburn for care. He had been in the clinic all day on Sunday and was asked to come back Monday. Then he waited all day Monday in order to be seen by me at about 4pm. Amazingly he wasn’t frustrated or upset, just grateful to be seen. I was able to provide him with 3 much needed fillings and he was on his way. It ended my clinic experience on a positive note, and I was happy to have been there.
We’ll see what happens with RAM in the future—the California Dental Associate is starting their own free clinic, called Missions of Mercy, and politics may prevent the organization of RAM from returning to Sacramento. Even if they never come back, I was inspired by Stan Brock, its founder, and will always remember my experiences.
Yours in good (dental) health,
Dr. Stefanie Shore, DDS