ASDA continues to highlight special populations as part of its National Outreach Initiative. This blog post focuses on veterans.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, homeless veterans list dental care among their top three unmet needs, along with housing and child care.
Many veterans do receive dental benefits through their VA. Yet in order to qualify, the veteran must be either 100 percent disabled, have been a prisoner of war or have developed a dental condition during their service. This leaves many veterans without dental benefits and thus no dental home. Many nonprofit organizations, companies and dental schools step in to help the non-qualified veterans.
In 2015, the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine hosted its first Dentistry Smiles on Veterans Day. In conjunction with the New York State Dental Association and local Eighth District Dental Society, more than 280 veterans received care in the first two years of the program. This program is something many dental schools are able to host. In preparation for UB’s third annual Dentistry Smiles on Veterans Day, I spoke with Dr. Brendan Dowd, a clinical instructor at UB, about the program.
Sara Perrone: How did “Vets Day” get started at UB?
Dr. Brendan Dowd: It was started in April 2015 by dean Michael Glick and his administration. He thought it would be a wonderful idea to provide free oral health care for some of the people who served our country.
What suggestions would you give a school interested in starting a similar program?
You need the cooperation of the dean and his or her administration, the faculty and the staff.
Why is it important to include students in the program?
I always find students ready and willing to volunteer. It always helps when they volunteer for important events such as these.
For an ASDA chapter looking to start a Veterans Day program at their school, Dr. Dowd’s suggestion of talking with the dean is the best place to start. Unlike other ASDA community outreach programs, this program involves the treatment of patients and, therefore, will need to include licensed dental professionals. Working with your school’s administration will help you with logistics such as securing volunteer dentists (mostly faculty), finding space to host the event and scheduling patients.
You can also look to your local and state dental associations for help. These groups provide resources such as monetary donations and marketing. While the dental school donates the space and supplies, you will still need donations to pay for things such as food for volunteers and t-shirts. It is important for your local dental association to be involved so they can pass the word along to their member dentists. Those dentists may have seen veterans in their practice who cannot afford dental care and can send them to the school for treatment.
While Veterans Day is just around the corner, there is never a bad time of year to host a veterans outreach event. Start working with your school’s administration to plan yours today.
~Sara Perrone, Buffalo ’18, Council on Professional Issues Chair