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editorial perspective

Publicity is Not a Four Letter Word

Jonathan S. Dubin, DMD

“Charity sees the need, not the cause.” German proverb

Charity in dental care takes many various forms. When do we find the time? We manage though, and even look for new ways to volunteer. Caring is in our souls. Charity and caring are not just words, but also integral parts of being a health care provider. The need for charitable care does not just exist—it is far greater than we could ever satisfy through volunteerism. Our effects can be viewed as a mere Band-aid on a gaping wound. Yet we strive to go out and purchase more boxes of Band-aids and keep applying. Dentists set up charity clinics and volunteer for screenings and provide treatment for needy individuals, expending countless thousands of hours. Last month I talked to a colleague about her plan for a dental day—or two—of charity works in Georgia in 2011. Perhaps you are familiar with a program called the Mission of Mercy or M.O.M. These programs have received attention in the national news over the past few years, popping up in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Connecticut, Colorado, and Texas after the Virginia Dental Health Foundation launched the first M.O.M. in 2001. This is a massive undertaking using a large facility (usually a warehouse) and perhaps up to 1,000 volunteers including 200 or more dentists along with support staff. After seeing publicity for the event, thousands of individuals in need of dental care typically show up, many sleeping outside the night before in hopes of being one of the lucky few hundred to receive free dental care on that day. As treatment is limited to that day, the care is primarily palliative, and dentists do not provide a ‘dental home’ to the recipients. A Georgia M.O.M. would be a feel-good application of our skills that may provide a smidgen of the amount of treatment needed by indigent and working poor adults in our state. Let’s consider that unemployment is in

double figures. Oral health issues don’t subside when a person becomes unemployed, but rather the opposite—an unemployed person may delay seeking needed care until the need is at emergency level. Even if the economy picked up and unemployment were to miraculously dip into the lower single digits, there would still be a significant need for care by far too many people to have the needs solved by even a two-day Georgia M.O.M. So…is holding a M.O.M. a lot about publicity for us, the GDA, and for our profession? You bet it is. My colleague and I agreed it was more about publicity than making a sizeable dent in the need for care of the needy, the working poor, the homeless, and the unemployed. Publicity—does that sound like an awful reason to host such a program? At first, that was the feeling I had. It sounds so wrong. But don’t dismiss this project or any other volunteer service project like Give Kids A Smile Day because it contains elements of self-promotion. In fact, I have three reasons as to why a Georgia M.O.M. program is so important: 1) It is a stopgap however few or many adults it helps. Even extraction of an infected tooth does help in that moment. 2) It says to those adults who receive treatment that dentists care. That is a powerful message to someone. If it lifts someone out of hopelessness, there is no measurement for what that is worth.

EDITORIAL Continued on page 6



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The Journal of the Georgia Dental Association