A season for giving

11-2021 David, donation of food boxes
December 21, 2021

Students from the VCU School of Dentistry, who resumed their Dental Clinic rotations at the NNMFHC early in 2021, have been giving their expertise and more to Clinic patients. During this season of giving their appreciation for those they serve shines especially clear.

David Russell (pictured) of the School of Dentistry took note of the Little Free Pantry in the Clinic lobby, courtesy of Bill Westbrook, with the simple message to “take what you need, leave what you can.” It’s been well used. To supplement that during the holidays, Healthy Harvest Food Bank, through the efforts of Deb Lockhart, gave 300 food boxes to also make available to those in need.

Russell saw what was happening and purchased more food boxes on his own for those in need.

“I have always enjoyed working and volunteering in the free clinic setting,” he said. “I was able to volunteer/work at a free clinic in Richmond for a few years before starting dental school. I saw firsthand how impactful these clinics are for their patients. I have had the same experience here in the Northern Neck. The patients are so grateful for what we are able to provide them and it is a cool and gratifying experience here.

“When I saw the front office staff handing out meal boxes to patients I wanted to help out also. We are blessed and fortunate to be in a profession like dentistry where we are able to help others. You never know what people are going through, especially during the holiday season, and I just wanted to help out in a small way if I could.”

Two other students related specific heart-warming instances during their chair-side dental work at the Clinic:

“My rotation at the NNMFHC has emphasized even more why healthcare and helping those who need it most is a passion of mine,” said one. “On my last day of the 2-week rotation I met a 75-year-old woman who really left an impact on me – a lovely woman who spoke of the state of her teeth and how they desperately needed to be cleaned.

“She must’ve thanked me 20 times during the procedure. It re-solidified and reminded me why I was here and why this is the path I chose. A fellow student in the operation next to mine told me that after I left for a moment the woman was praying aloud, “Thank you Lord for helping me get my teeth cleaned.” This moment spoke to me more than any other situation I’ve experienced so far in my short healthcare career.

“It is this feeling that drives and motivates me. This situation that recharges my battery and revives my motivation for what I do. I wish to have an impact on every patient that crosses my path and hope to have memorable impact on all of them.”

Another student recalled a patient who “had old fillings on her front teeth that were cracked and stained. She was embarrassed to even open her mouth and show me. After talking and getting to know her, she finally let me take a look.

“She had cavities and failed fillings on all of her upper front teeth. I told her I could do two of them at that appointment. When I showed her the end result in the mirror, she immediately started crying. She said, “this is what my teeth are SUPPOSED to look like.” She asked if I could do the rest of her front teeth but I told her I was only here for two more days.

“Fortunately an afternoon patient cancelled that same day, so I saw her again to do another tooth and then saw her the next day to finish the others. She was so grateful and appreciative that it reminded me of my purpose in this profession. Such a simple procedure to me changed one person’s whole smile and self-confidence. My experience at the NNMFHC showed me that this is why we do what we do.

“The patient told me she is having a party on Sunday to celebrate her new teeth!”