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Dental students' good deeds well-awarded

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Dentistry students at the Goldie’s Place clinic

Dentistry students run the Goldie’s Place clinic as if it were their private practice.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

It may sound like a cliche, but it’s true: the dentistry students who run the clinic at Goldie’s Place, a support center for people who are homeless on Chicago’s North Side, get as much from the experience as they give.

“Both the homeless and students benefit from this partnership,” said Caswell Evans, associate dean of prevention and public health sciences in the College of Dentistry.

“What the students learn cannot be taught in the classroom.”

In recognition of the student-run program, the college just received the Bud Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Award from the American Dental Association Foundation.

The annual award recognizes one exemplary community service project organized or conducted by students in a predoctoral dental program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

It is named for Emanuel “Bud” Tarrson, the former chief executive of John O. Butler Co. and a noted philanthropist who championed dental education.

More than 75 UIC dental students volunteer their time and talents every other Saturday at Goldie’s Place, 5705 N. Lincoln Ave. Students in the Kennedy-King City College’s dental hygiene program also work in the clinic.

The facility has grown from a one-chair operation 14 years ago to a four-operatory dental suite with a laboratory and sterilization room.

Access to care is a major issue facing the dental profession, Caswell said. Through Goldie’s Place, UIC dental students experience first-hand lessons from an underserved population.

“We expect that this experience will resonate with these students throughout their professional careers and will make a difference,” he said.
UIC dental students of all levels, from first- to fourth-year, assist at the clinic, which they manage and operate as if it were their own private practice.

The procedures they perform range from simple cleanings to filling cavities, extracting teeth and replacing missing teeth with new prosthetics. A faculty adviser oversees all student work.

“I’ve received a better clinical education since I began volunteering at Goldie’s Place,” said dental student Andy Monestero, who has managed other students as a team captain.

“It’s a great experience to see how to operate a clinic. We have a lot of freedom here.”

More than 110 social service agencies in the Chicago area refer patients to Goldie’s Place, which opened nearly 16 years ago in 700-square-foot facility on North Clark Street.

William Bjork, a Chicago dentist and College of Dentistry alumnus, began offering free dental services at the center in 1997, donating a dental chair and equipment.

The dental services have grown along with Goldie’s Place.

A 2001 expansion doubled the size of Goldie’s, and a modern two-chair operatory was installed after the agency received several grants.

After the center moved into its new 5,100-square-foot facility Bjork and Goldie’s executive director Johanna Dalton approached the College of Dentistry for help.

The college donated three chairs, additional dental items — and student volunteers.

Other benefactors, including Henry Schein Cares, the foundation arm of Henry Schein Inc., a health care supply distributor, provided major contributions of equipment, supplies and services.

A portion of the $5,000 grant that comes with the Tarrson award will be used for supplies and other expenses at the Goldie’s Place dental clinic.

“One of our goals at the college is to prepare an oral health care work force that is competent in and committed to addressing the oral health needs of vulnerable and underserved populations and to play its part in eliminating health disparities,” Evans said.

“Working with Goldie’s Place helps us achieve our objective.”


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