Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh
For the third year in a row, I was privileged enough to participate in a completely free dental clinic organized by Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh last month. This was the second year that the event was held at PPG Paints Arena and was an even bigger production than previous years! Over a two day period, 1,478 volunteers—including 176 dentists and 90 hygienists—provided 1,302 patients with various dental services. Fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals, denture work, and cancer and medical screenings were provided to patients at absolutely no cost to them.
For many patients, this was the first care that they had gotten in many years. Many people wait all year to have their dental issue(s) addressed at this clinic because they simply cannot afford care at a private office and the waiting list for low cost clinics are often very long. People from all walks of life were provided with top-level care at the event. There were individuals who traveled from out of state and stayed for both days to address multiple issues. There were grandparents with multiple grandchildren in tow. There were adults who hadn't seen a dentist in decades. There were children getting their teeth cleaned for the very first time. Although the procedures varied, the thing that each and every patient received was compassion. Regardless of their circumstances, each person was treated with dignity and without judgement.
Why do I love this event so much? I see the deep sense of gratitude in the patients' eyes and feel it in their hugs when I'm done providing care to them. Although my own patients in private practice freely express their gratitude for the care they receive, it is quite different when people are desperate for that care. I am also moved by hundreds of people coming together for one common goal- to provide much needed care to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. My own husband and mother decided to join the volunteer efforts this year and served as patient hospitality volunteers- making sure that the people who were waiting for treatment were hydrated and had snacks. They were able to sit and talk with some of the patients, easing their fears, or just hearing their stories. Since people were seen on a first come, first served basis, the wait times could be very long. I think having those patient hospitality volunteers provided a type of psychological care that can often be lost in a clinic setting.
As the three of us walked out of PPG Paints Arena, we all agreed that we would be back again the next year!
To read more about Mission of Mercy Pittsburgh, you can click here.