April 6, 2016
Nearly 150 homeless individuals in San Francisco received the gift of free healthcare from dental school and public health volunteers at the recent Project Homeless Connect (PHC) event on March 23.
Students, staff, faculty and alumni from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry provided key leadership in the dental care section of the event held at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Throughout the day, more than 25 volunteers conducted free dental screenings and basic oral healthcare, provided oral health information and answered health questions. Thirty homeless individuals were brought back to the dental school's Oral Surgery clinic for additional same-day care and another 100 people received care through the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Studio Dental, a mobile dental outreach service started by Dr. Sara Creighton '09, a Dugoni School alumnus.
Dugoni School faculty members and many Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) student leaders were among the volunteers. SCOPE is a peer mentor, student-run volunteer community oral health promotion organization at the dental school. The mission is to develop dental professionals committed to "best practices" in community-based oral health projects for underserved people.
"The event itself was amazing as the patients were so grateful to be helped and taken care of," said Michelle Hsiao, a student in the DDS Class of 2016. "I am grateful to help out those living in our community who don't have the means to get dental services. PHC is one of the most remarkable experiences I'll remember from my time at dental school. "
The school has been a lead dental services provider at PHC events for more than 10 years. School volunteers provide many hours of service and the school has donated thousands of dollars in clinical services and supplies to the effort over the years. PHC events, held several times each year, serve the city's homeless by offering free medical and dental care, mental health services, haircuts, employment, legal counseling, food and a variety of other services.
"Dental care is one of the top unmet needs among homeless and working poor adults," said Christine Miller, associate professor and director of community health programs in the dental school's Department of Dental Practice and Community Programs. "Our involvement with Project Homeless Connect provides a valuable public service and links underserved people to dental health homes. Also, this event allowed our SCOPE officer alumni to work with first, second and third year students to care for people from all walks of life. Our dental services uplift people and relieve their pain. We support a healthy presentable smile on the faces of those most in need, to make returning to school or landing a successful job interview more possible."
According to a study of more than 9,800 homeless veterans participating in housing intervention programs, the people who received dental care were more likely to be working or financially stable and living in permanent housing. Access to dental care is an important way to help homeless individuals avoid depression, relieve chronic pain and begin to take steps toward stability.
Members of the public and local companies and organizations interested in helping to fund dental care for underserved adults, children and families may contact the school's Department of Development at 415.929.6406 to learn more about ways to assist in the efforts. For example, the school recently created a new program to support dental services for military veterans by providing discounted dental care at the school's San Francisco clinics. The school also helps fund dental care for undeserved children through its Kids in the Klinic Endowment to support low-income families throughout Northern California.
To learn more about Project Homeless Connect, visit www.projecthomelessconnect.org.