For the second year, students and faculty from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) are participating in the Mid-South Mission of Mercy, a two-day free dental clinic for the underserved in Memphis and the Mid-South. It is taking place today and Saturday at Bellevue Baptist Church.
The idea for the community service event was initiated locally by Mitch Godat, DDS, MS, an alumnus of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, as part of his term as president of the Memphis Dental Society. Similar events had been held in other cities, but last year was the first for the Memphis area.
Mid-South Mission of Mercy is sponsored by the Memphis Dental Society, with assistance from the Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas Dental Associations, along with a legion of other volunteers.
Again this year, the line of those in need of dental services formed hours before the event opened. The organizers said the 2017 goal is to treat approximately 2,500 patients and offer more than $1.5 million in free dental care.
Volunteers from various colleges at UTHSC are among the huge numbers offering their services during the event. Most are from the College of Dentistry. The Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy also have students and faculty, who are donating their time.
“UTHSC is committed to working with our community partners to positively impact the health of the citizens of the Mid-South and beyond,” said Lori Gonzalez, PhD, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs. “Through the partnership with the Mid-South Mission of Mercy, our students are given the opportunity to provide services in a real-world setting and to broaden their understanding of the health needs of our community.”
Tim Hottel, DDS, MS, MBA, dean of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, said participation in the Mission of Mercy is a “win-win” for everyone.
“The Mid-South Mission of Mercy event is a wonderful opportunity for our dental students to treat those who may not have access to or cannot afford to see a dentist,” he said. “This type of community outreach is extremely important for our students’ education, and the experience instills in them a sense of the commitment to help the underserved, as they move forward in their careers. The local citizens in need benefit, and the students, staff and dentists, who provide services, benefit.”
Editor’s note, Feb. 13, 2017: The event had 1,856 registered volunteers, treated 2,154 patients, and provided $1,166,091 worth of free dentistry to the community.