A little girl offers her mother a hand of support as her mom gets dental care at the Adventist Community Health Initiative pop-up clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin. | Juanita Edge
Volunteers from across Wisconsin -- many of them from outside the Adventist community -- offered professional services to those with low income and/or no dental/vision insurance.
There are currently few to no Adventist dentists in Wisconsin. Therefore, a key element to holding an ACHI free dental clinic in our state is recruiting volunteer dentists. Dr. Arlene Gayle, director of this Marshfield ACHI clinic, who is an Adventist oncologist for the Marshfield Clinic and Health Ministries Leader for the Marshfield Adventist Church, recognized this serious limitation.
Through her initiative, Dr. Gayle was able to meet with both the mayor of Marshfield and one of the Marshfield Clinic Health System executives to explain the Adventist Community Health Initiative mission in offering free dental care to community members in need of services. Dr. Gayle reported that both the mayor and executive member were quite excited about the proposed community contribution and said, “This is awesome! How can we help?” Dr. Gayle smiled and said, “We need all of your dentists to volunteer!“
The hospital board allowed both Dr. Gayle and Dr. Randy Griffin to meet with the Marshfield clinic dentists and promote the program by satellite to all the eight dental clinics in the Marshfield healthcare system.
From that providentially held meeting, seven dentists, 12 dental hygienists, as well as three dentists not affiliated with Marshfield Clinic, decided to donate their time and expertise on October 26. It was a huge breakthrough.
Also, this year was the first time free vision care was provided, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Richard Patchett, member of the Shepherds House Adventist Church and an ophthalmologist in the Marshfield Clinic.
Two years ago, at the first ACHI held in Wisconsin, Dr. Patchett spoke with Dr. Randy Griffin, Lake Union ACHI Director, about adding a vision aspect to the ACHI. The addition of screening for vision needs, glaucoma, cataracts, etc. at this year’s event is a product of that conversation.
“There are quite a few people who do not have vision insurance,” said Dr. Patchett, “and we are happy to provide screening and help.”
Guests needing glasses choose a frame they like from hundreds of donated new frames. Then, through a program set up by the Lake Union, their prescriptions will be filled through the services of a generous optometrist in Texas who makes the lenses and sends the completed glasses back to a local optician for pick-up within about one week.
Dr. Patchett was able to work with eight volunteer opticians, technicians, and several retired eye doctors throughout the day. “People have been quite appreciative,” said Dr. Patchett with a smile.
Dr. Randy Griffin said, “While our primary goal is to take care of people’s physical needs and show that we care about them, we also have available the spiritual component at the clinic. I observed one volunteer doctor praying with many guests and encouraging them in their life! What a blessing to see others being excited and willing to share the love of Jesus with those they come in contact with! This doctor expressed gratitude to me that the Adventists are willing to provide such a needed service to communities.”
Another story Dr. Griffin related was of one person who had a mouth full of rotten teeth with no money or insurance to get help. This person had 14 teeth taken out at the clinic and was so grateful for what was provided! Dr. Griffin observed during his evaluation of the patient, “I’m certain that this person would have had multiple abscesses arise very soon had they not been taken care of this weekend.”
While people waited in line to receive vision and dental services, they were introduced to the eight natural laws of health, tastefully presented through the Adventist Health Expo program. Under the organization of Wisconsin Conference Health Ministries Coordinator Karen Flanagan, volunteers offered visitors literature, water, health-age screening, counseling, and even a relaxing massage.
Terry Howard, a musician and businessman, of the Marshfield Adventist church, organized a variety of musicians and musical groups to sing and provide music for the waiting Adventist Community Health Initiative guests. Some people, even after receiving their desired services, stayed around to bask in the beautiful blend of banjo, guitar, fiddle, base, and autoharp.
Around 150 volunteer church members and health care professionals came together to help make this event happen. Eleven volunteers from the Madison East Church, including five young people from their youth department, traveled to Marshfield to share in the day’s mission.
It was awesome seeing the youth in their matching “Called to Serve” T-shirts helping with registration, childcare, and several aspects of the Health Expo. What a delight to see all ages join efforts in providing this multi-faceted outreach.
Here is a review of the day by numbers:
145 guests served
132 x-rays obtained
79 people had teeth cleaned
45 teeth were extracted
58 fillings placed
79 eye exams provided
55 people will receive Rx glasses in a few weeks
One cannot put a price on the information, education, and literature provided to all who experienced this part of the event!
TOTAL VALUE of SERVICES
~$85,150 for the 224 guests
Juanita Edge, Wisconsin Communication director