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UAB School of Dentistry faculty, residents, students, and alumni took part in Alabama’s first remote medical event, helping provide dental care to more than 400 underserved people in Gadsden, AL.

East Central Alabama Area Health Education Center and Remote Area Medical – RAM® – hosted the pop-up clinic offering free medical, dental, and vision services April 23 and 24.

UAB dental volunteers prepare to see patients at rural medical event in Gadsden.UAB dental volunteers prepare to see patients at rural medical event in Gadsden.For the Gadsden clinic, RAM enlisted the help of a wide array of volunteers, including medical providers from UAB Medicine, the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, and UAB School of Optometry, in addition to the School of Dentistry. The event provided services on a first-come, first-served basis to more than 600 patients, with screenings and treatments done in the same day.

“It was truly an honor for UAB School of Dentistry to be part of the first RAM event in Alabama,” said Russell Taichman, DMD, DMSc, dean. “We were proud to have our faculty, residents, and students work alongside the Alabama Dental Association, the Board of Dental Examiners, our school’s Alumni Association, and so many others to overcome the barriers to receiving health care and improve oral health for the undeserved and the under insured in our state. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we all work together toward a common goal, such as this.”

George “Lew” Mitchell, DMD, a School of Dentistry alumnus and adjunct professor, served as one of the key event initiators and organizers for the Gadsden event.  As volunteer clinic coordinator, Mitchell helped bring the state’s dental community together in the RAM mission.

“We witnessed the contributions and support from all aspects of Alabama Dentistry,” said Mitchell. “All told, we had 60 dental chairs and nearly 150 dental volunteers, including over 100 from UAB. We also had 35 UAB alumni dentists who volunteered and made special efforts to mentor the dental students who worked with them.”

Others instrumental to the dentistry component include UAB alumni Zack Studstill, M.Ed, DMD, executive director of the Alabama Dental Association and Mary T. Wallace, DMD, the organization’s vice president and volunteer dental director for the Gadsden RAM event. Also, Perng-Ru Liu, DDS, MS, DMD, the school’s associate dean of clinical affairs and Kathleen Diveley, the school’s director of clinical operations, as well as Ben Ingram, DMD, president of the school’s alumni association. Ingram brought most of his staff to work the two-day event.

ADA executive director Ray Cohlmia, DDS, along with RAM chief operating officer Chris Hall and several state representatives and local public officials were in attendance to celebrate the first full-scale pop-up clinic that RAM has operated in the state of Alabama.

“I am personally aware of one patient having most upper teeth extracted on Saturday only to return on Sunday to have multiple lower teeth filled, Mitchell continued. “I saw tears of joy numerous times, especially from those who had missing front teeth replaced with a simple flipper partial. This event was monumental for Alabama and there are so many stories to tell.”

Oral health is an important part of overall health. Unfortunately, rural communities in Alabama, like those across the country, face a range of barriers to accessing oral care. These include lack of insurance and fewer dentists per capita, among others. Yet on average, citizens in rural areas tend to have more oral health issues.

“Ultimately, it will take all of us coming together for events like this, as well as other collaborative initiatives, to solve these problems for those in underserved areas of our state,” Taichman added.