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From L-R: Mary Tait, Kristen Kezar, Christopher Bertsch and Christy MacPherson.

Heroes among us: students serving the community

As the first year of DIRECT Dental nears its end, the DMD students who established the community-based program to provide free care to people without access to dental services could not be more delighted.

“It’s been a lot of work but we’ve been able to do what we set out to do and that’s to use our skills as fourth-year students to help people who need emergency care, but who are uninsured or simply can’t afford to see a dentist,” said Christy MacPherson who, along with classmates Christopher Bertsch, Kristen Kezar and Mary Tait, nurtured DIRECT Dental along from a simple idea to a reality.

DIRECT (Dental Initiative Rendering Emergency Care Treatments) will hold the last of its 13 half-day walk-in clinics on March 30 in the Saskatoon West Dental Clinic, which has been supplied free of charge by the College of Dentistry. Each clinic relies on students from all years to handle duties like triaging patients, sterilization and assisting. As its name suggests, DIRECT Dental gives priority to patients with the most pressing needs.

MacPherson pointed out the clinics rely entirely on volunteers, but not just students—practicing dentists along with dental assistants, hygienists and therapists have stepped up to provide support and supervision throughout the year.

“The opportunity to work with people in our community who face real barriers to dental care has touched people in a very special way, and we are so very appreciative of their help,” she said.

DIRECT Dental has also benefited from the contributions of corporate sponsors including dentalcorp, Carlton Dental Labs, Avail Dental Advisory Services, Henry Schein, Sunstar, Sinclair Dental, CDSPI, Colgate, 3M Canada, Dr. Louis Kriel, Dr. Garnet Packota and Dr. Gord Johnson.

The initiative was always intended to be ongoing, and MacPherson said a new board is now in place to oversee the operation in the coming year, and beyond. The original organizers will all graduate this spring “but we have some terrific third- and second-year students willing to continue what we’ve started,” said MacPherson.

Reprinted with permission from Bridges, the College of Dentistry development newsletter.

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“The opportunity to work with people in our community who face real barriers to dental care has touched people in a very special way, and we are so very appreciative of their help.” - Christy MacPherson
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