UW School of Dentistry

School joining major Seattle health outreach

In one of Seattle’s biggest-ever public health outreach events, the School of Dentistry will join a sprawling volunteer coalition to help provide medical, dental and vision services to thousands of people in October.

John Merner (left) and Selam Misgano of Seattle Center join dental volunteer co-leader Dr. Michael Karr in June at the Pacific Northwest Dental Conference, where they recruited volunteers for the Seattle/King County Clinic event.

More than 50 Pacific Northwest organizations are linking up to stage the Oct. 23-26 Seattle/King County Clinic event, hosted by Seattle Center at Key Arena in partnership with the humanitarian group Remote Area Medical (RAM). The event will target Puget Sound’s underserved and vulnerable populations, especially the refugee and immigrant communities. While pediatric patients will be accepted, the emphasis will be on treating adults.

UW dental alumni Dr. Jeff Parrish (’79) and Dr. Michael Karr (’80), the event’s dental directors and longtime dental humanitarians, are actively recruiting volunteers. Those who have stepped forward include Dean Joel Berg, who canceled all his other activities to volunteer on Oct. 24. Other leading faculty members who will volunteer include Dr. Thomas Dodson, Chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and Dr. Peter Milgrom of Oral Health Sciences.

“I’m thrilled that our School will be part of this great outreach, and I hope that many of our alumni, faculty and students – especially our residents – will volunteer for at least a day,” Dean Berg said. “A one-time event may have its limitations, but the chance to deliver urgently needed care to a lot of vulnerable people shouldn’t be missed.”

Dr. Parrish said that experienced dentists are urgently needed as volunteers. The need is greatest for general dentists, endodontists and oral surgeons; volunteer dentists are strongly encouraged to bring their dental assistants or hygienists along if possible to maximize efficiency. Because thousands of patients are expected, proficiency is a key consideration, so pre-doctoral student volunteers will be encouraged to serve as screeners and dental assistants.

Dr. Parrish also noted that retired dentists are welcome to offer their services. Under a special plan, the state will pay for their temporary license and provide free malpractice coverage. Retired dentists must be eligible for licensure (have a current license that is expiring and don’t want to maintain it). Out-of-state dentists, public health, military and other providers can come in on a temporary Washington license if they are currently licensed elsewhere, he said.

RAM originally conducted such events overseas, but in recent years has extended its focus to U.S. cities. It provides all the infrastructure and supplies for an event, including radiography and sterilization services.

In Seattle, Dr. Parrish said, dental care will include gross debridement, extractions, anterior flippers, anterior and bicuspid root canals, and some restorative treatment. Complex cases will not be accepted, and patients with high blood pressure or similar risk factors will be screened out during triage. General anesthesia and sedation dentistry will not be offered.

The main goals for providers will be to relieve infection and pain. Radiographic services will be available for the proposed care as needed, Dr. Parrish said.

Seven continuing-education credits will be offered to volunteer dentists. Washington State Dental Association volunteers can simply swipe their WSDA membership card. Other dentists can fill out a form to receive credit.