UNMC's impact: Students provide free dental care

by Sydnie Hochstein, UNMC College of Dentistry | March 21, 2018

Image with caption: Dental students Kevin Smith, left, and Ben Coenen, right, examine patient Katheran Ford at the People's City Mission Dental Clinic in Lincoln. They are supervised by Jon Asbjornson, D.D.S., UNMC adjunct faculty member. (Photo by Margaret Cain)

Dental students Kevin Smith, left, and Ben Coenen, right, examine patient Katheran Ford at the People's City Mission Dental Clinic in Lincoln. They are supervised by Jon Asbjornson, D.D.S., UNMC adjunct faculty member. (Photo by Margaret Cain)

Editor's Note: UNMC's impact on Nebraska is immense.

You see it in the faces of the doctors, nurses and pharmacists we train. And, in those who pursue careers in dentistry, allied health, public health, or research.

picture disc.It plays out when graduates return to rural communities to keep the pharmacy open. Or, start new practices that help patients obtain health care close to home.

UNMC's work brings pride to a state that champions success.

So, in this year of tight Legislative budgets, let's remind ourselves of how UNMC, along with all of the University of Nebraska campuses, impact the state.

And then acknowledge that the work we do matters.

Over the next few weeks, we will share stories on how UNMC makes a difference. We can't begin to know every story, so feel free to add your own "impact" stories in the comments below, or share them with UNMC PR via unmcpr@unmc.edu.


Students provide free dental care at People's City Mission

Katheran Ford arrived for her appointment at the People's City Mission Medical Clinic in west Lincoln more than ready to have her teeth pulled.

With constant tooth pain, Ford decided to try out the Mission's free dental clinic at the advice of a friend. It was her second time seeing clinic volunteer Ben Coenen, a senior dental student at the UNMC College of Dentistry.

"He did a good job last time. I didn't feel anything," she said.

For Ford and many other people, the clinic is one of the few places they can go to get quality dental care at no cost.

"Without this clinic I probably wouldn't get my teeth done because I have no money," she said.

She is grateful for students like Coenen, who is just one of many third and fourth-year dental students who volunteer at the clinic three times per month. With six student volunteers and at least one UNMC faculty member per clinic session, the clinic will care for about 30 to 36 disadvantaged or uninsured patients a month that otherwise might not receive care. Volunteers mostly provide tooth extractions, but also offer restorations, dentures, and dental hygiene care -- all free of cost.

"Having the students here is great. We really couldn't do it without them," said Pat Hupp, dental clinic coordinator. "We hear all the time how grateful these patients are."

UNMC dental students and faculty have been volunteering at the clinic for the last five years, and it has become a place for students to gain experience and repetition on procedures they will perform daily in their dental careers.

"This is purely a volunteer effort to help our community," said Jim Jenkins, D.D.S., assistant professor at the College of Dentistry. "And boy do our students love it. They do a great job and get fabulous experience."

It also provides students a chance to work with vulnerable populations and gives them keen insights into how significantly oral health affects a person's overall health. While students spend a lot of their time extracting teeth, the clinic's focus is prevention.

"This clinic is a blessing and an opportunity for both students and patients," said Karen Schrader, PA-C, volunteer medical director for the People's City Mission Medical Clinic. "Tooth pain is without mercy; so through this clinic we aim to alter and slow down the decay and infection process. It allows us to help people economically and helps them smile again."

Impact stories:
See more stories of UNMC's impact statewide here.

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