In honor of the University’s 125th anniversary, each ATSU school/college will complete a community service project during the 2017-18 academic year. For ATSU-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH), the School chose to provide dentures to veterans in need.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, ATSU-MOSDOH celebrated completion of the first phase of its veterans project. Student and faculty volunteers delivered full upper and lower dentures to five U.S. military veterans at the St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Center. Each veteran received care from a team comprised of a fourth-year student and a third-year student, one of whom served in the military. Volunteer faculty members supervised and mentored each team of students.
ATSU-MOSDOH partnered with Affinia Healthcare, Smiles of Hope, and Dental Arts Laboratories Inc. (DAL) in Davenport, Iowa, to provide these dentures at no cost. Affinia Healthcare provided administrative support during veterans’ visits to the St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Center. Smiles of Hope, a ministry of the Lighthouse Church of Dexter, Missouri, covered travel expenses. DAL waived laboratory fees for the first cases and adjusted fees for all remaining cases.
“You gave me my smile back; you gave me my dignity back,” said 20-year Army veteran Jimmy Comstock as he hugged his student dentists goodbye. “When I smile now, people will notice it.”
ATSU-MOSDOH’s Herbert Silva, DMD, assistant professor and comprehensive care unit director, is serving as the project facilitator and coordinated the faculty and student teams. A former Marine, Dr. Silva helped identify the veterans for the project. In addition, he is working to identify partners in the Kirksville area to continue providing dentures for veterans.
“The faculty and students have volunteered their time on Saturdays to help these veterans,” said Dr. Silva. “Our partners are helping us provide a needed service.”
The denture process takes several weeks to complete, so the School and its partners have divided veterans into groups. The second group of veterans began treatment with different teams of third- and fourth-year students on the same day that the first group’s dentures were delivered. To help continue care for these veterans after their dentures are delivered, ATSU-MOSDOH coordinated follow-up care, free of charge.
“I am a veteran, so it’s awesome to share this experience with other veterans,” said Michael Love, D4, who previously served as a communications officer in the Air Force. “This opportunity also allows students who aren’t veterans to hear stories and learn about what these folks have been through.”