When the School of Dentistrys Class of 2011 graduated at Meany Hall on June 4, it left behind something far more tangible than memories.
This spring, the students also doled out thousands of dollars they had raised to recipients such as Neighborcare Healths 45th Street Clinic for homeless teens and the dental schools disabilities clinic.
The students earmarked $12,500 for the schools Department of Oral Medicine, which, like other units at the school and the UW, has been hit hard by cuts in state funding. The contribution will be divided between the departments Urgent Care Clinic and Dental Education in Care of Persons with Disabilities (DECOD), a program that provides dental care to Washington state residents with acquired or developmental disabilities. The students also gave another $6,500 to DECOD for a portable X-ray machine, along with $2,000 to the 45th Street Clinic.
Funds were raised through the classs second-year winter social and other activities.
“We were thrilled that the fourth-year students gave us this gift,” said Dr. Glenn Govin, director of the DECOD clinic. Because much of the clinics work is done on the road – and often in places with no dental X-ray facilities — a portable unit will greatly enhance DECODs capabilities, he said.
“Its going to be a huge help, because taking care of these patients can be really challenging,” said Dr. Mark Drangsholt, chair of the dental schools Department of Oral Medicine, which oversees DECOD.
“The contribution of the Class of 2011 will significantly fund our cost of running the dental program,” said Joseph Sparacio, Neighborcare Healths development director. “The gift makes it possible to provide dentistry to an exceptionally vulnerable population.” Student and faculty volunteers devote two Thursday evenings a month to running the dental clinic in Wallingford. Neighborcare clients receive other medical and social services as well.
“The youth clinic operates on a shoestring budget, and even at that can only operate through contributions of time and funding from the community,” Sparacio said. “The students from the UW School of Dentistry are remarkable in having given not only of their time and talent, but this cash gift as well.”
Dental students say they feel a powerful obligation to support these causes. Said Class of 2011 President Oleg Shvartsur: “Its important to give back to the school, because I feel personally privileged to have the opportunity to go to the University of Washington School of Dentistry. … I feel like Im getting a great education, and were being gifted – were being taught skills that we can use to help others. Why not help those in need? Youre able to provide treatment, youre able to relieve pain; on certain occasions, youre able to save a life.”
He added: “I feel its [also] our responsibility to give back to the community,” noting that the school draws patients to its pre-doctoral clinics from the public at large. These patients entrust dental students with their care, Shvartsur said, and the classs contributions are a way of repaying the community for that trust.