The goal of United Way's WellPartners is still the same as when it opened its doors – provide services to help those individuals, families and children who are uninsured or underinsured gain access to the health care they need to live healthier, better lives. And as of September 2019, the children’s dental clinic, now a part of WellPartners, is celebrating 60 years of providing free dental care for children.
At the core of this program are dedicated volunteers like Dr. Lynn Campbell.
Dr. Campbell has been a volunteer dentist for 58 years and was helping before WellPartners was even called WellPartners!
Since his early years as a volunteer, he has seen that children, usually five or six years old, were losing permanent molars and had rotting teeth simply because they did not have access to consistent, long-term care.
Dr. Campbell explains, “That’s when you get into trouble, and kids lose the teeth they were supposed to keep the rest of their life.” Children with dental pain are three times more likely to miss school than those with healthy teeth and gums. As these children grew up, Campbell would see them at the adult dental clinic with no teeth or very poor dental hygiene that led to a lot of pain.
The care that has been provided through the adult and children’s dental clinics would be unavailable without dedicated volunteers like Dr. Campbell. Since 1959, 145 volunteer dentists and registered hygienists, 6 dental residents and 36 Midlands Technical College hygiene and dental assisting students have provided free services through these clinics.
“If a kid was to go to school without a permanent front tooth, they were going to be made fun of, and it makes a tremendous difference in their personal growth.” Dental care is more than just clean teeth. It’s about having the confidence to step out of your comfort zone, it’s about preventing disease and most importantly, it’s about reducing or eliminating pain in someone’s teeth so they can focus on what’s truly important to them. “I enjoy coming, they [WellPartners staff] appreciate us volunteers, and the patients appreciate us, and these kids and adults have received treatments they would not get if it was not for this WellPartners collaboration.”
Dr. Campbell still volunteers today even though he is retired from the private sector of dentistry. He began volunteering in 1965 and believes that “if you’ve got the ability to give back, then do it.”
Dr. Campbell still volunteers every Wednesday, even if this means he can only make half of his rotary meeting.
Thanks to volunteers like Dr. Campbell and donors like you, last year 2,970 adults and children visited the dental and eye clinics at WellPartners, totaling almost 6,500 visits.
Learn more at wellpartners.org.