Meeting A Need

Free clinic partners with dental school for urgent care clinics

Dental students Phillip Lane, right, and Richard Gunnell prepare for the next patient at the Dr. Mary Ludwig Montgomery County Free Clinic on Saturday. The dental school in Indianapolis has partnered with the clinic to treat urgent dental needs.
Dental students Phillip Lane, right, and Richard Gunnell prepare for the next patient at the Dr. Mary Ludwig Montgomery County Free Clinic on Saturday. The dental school in Indianapolis has partnered with the clinic to treat urgent dental needs.
Nick Hedrick/Journal Review
Posted

In an exam room at the Dr. Mary Ludwig Montgomery County Free Clinic on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a patient was under the care of dentists in training.

The providers were students from the dental school in Indianapolis under a partnership to offer urgent dental care for Montgomery County residents. While the clinic has a dentist on staff, patients with emergency needs were having to be referred to other community health centers.

“We’re hoping that we can meet the urgent care need that’s out there, that is huge,” said Dr. Janet Rucker, the clinic’s chief dental officer, who serves as a faculty adviser at the school. The clinic was averaging six calls a week from patients seeking immediate care, she added.

When students in the school’s community outreach program learned Rucker was active in the clinic, they saw a way to continue treating underserved patients while the program’s own free clinic transitioned to new space in Indianapolis.

The first clinic was held in September. Additional dates are scheduled for Oct. 9 and 16. Patients will be seen on select Saturdays through the end of the year, with plans to add more dates through mid-2022.

Student providers and assistants are supervised by Rucker and an attending faculty dentist.

“You have people come in and they’re in a vulnerable place because they’re in pain and … it’s just a humbling experience being able to fix that quickly and provide all-around care that they need,” said Mikki Jaramillo, a third-year dental student and vice chair of the outreach committee.

Though third-year students have to wait another year until they can perform procedures or assist providers, Jaramillo said the clinic gives her a real-word perspective.

“It’s a great experience getting to work with the patients outside the school and seeking kind of how things run, more so outside the academic setting,” Jaramillo said.

Hada Tillero, who is studying in the international dental program, said the training requires students to be more independent. Tillero has already been credentialed in her native Venezuela.

“We still have the faculty here but they’re not, like, telling us what to do,” she said. “We have to be the ones who think and process the diagnostics and the treatment.”

Tillero’s colleagues say they benefit from the international students’ backgrounds in the exam room.

“Almost everybody in the international program has their license and have been practicing before so that’s kind of humbling, I think, to be in with these people who have their degrees and know a lot more,” said Ben Cvengros, a fellow third-year student.

“It’s almost like shadowing, sometimes,” Jaramillo added with a laugh.

For Tillero, the learning goes both ways.

“We came with some struggles, but we learn from you so much,” she said.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here