The Dental Student Health Action Coalition Clinic, known as the Dental SHAC, received a $75,000 gift from Richmond Dental and Medical, a division of Barnhardt Manufacturing Company. The gift will be used to help offset the cost of both running the program and using the school’s resources including lights, HVAC and more.
“The generous contribution from Richmond Dental and Medical gives the current SHAC coordinators more time to focus solely on patients, while alleviating the time-consuming stress associated with raising funds for supplies,” said Minka Hotic, DDS Candidate 2019, student coordinator for the SHAC clinic.
The Dental SHAC at the UNC-CH School of Dentistry is one of the oldest student-led free dental clinics in the country. The clinic operates roughly 10 Wednesday nights each semester and serves patients in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and other nearby communities. UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry students, under the supervision of residents and faculty, provide patients cost-free preventative oral health education, screenings, fillings, cleanings and extractions.
In 2017-2018, the Dental SHAC provided more than $145,000 of free care to more than 700 patients in the local community.
“We are proud to provide financial support, as well as gift-in-kind products to the SHAC clinic as a direct means to positively affect the dental care of underserved communities in North Carolina,” said Tom L. Barnhardt, president of Richmond Dental and Medical. “As a leading university and located in our home state, UNC-CH School of Dentistry is ideal for Richmond to partner with in support of dental communities served by the UNC-CH students, faculty and alumni.”
Richmond Dental and Medical has a long history of partnership with UNC-CH School of Dentistry. Seventy years ago, Nell Barnhardt, a second generation of the family and president of Richmond Dental and Medical, supplied the school with graduation packs of products and financial support to assist with the students’ education. This year, Richmond Dental and Medical aimed to renew this partnership – and has in part done so with this $75,000 contribution.
“SHAC is a definitive way to care for those in the community who generally do not have the resources for oral health care,” said Allen Samuelson, DDS, professor with the Department of Dental Ecology and faculty advisor for the SHAC clinic. “The patients are a blessing to us and we hope to minister to their needs to the best of our abilities. We are ambassadors for the school, community and state.”
Hotic says there are four things required for the clinic to operate: dental space, student volunteers, faculty volunteers and money for supplies. The UNC Dental Faculty Practice’s Henson Geriatric and Special Care Clinic and the school’s endodontic clinics provide space for patients of the SHAC clinic. Without the support of student and faculty volunteers, the clinic would not be possible. The same, she said, of the Richmond Dental and Medical gift.
The first SHAC clinics opened in Edgemont, North Carolina and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1968. According to SHAC’s website, the clinics were met with resistance at first, because the students advertised an open-door policy, allowing patients to seek care regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or ability to pay. Eventually, the community came to see the benefits of a local, primary facility which offered a multitude of health care services.
Nearly 50 years later, SHAC is run entirely by student volunteers from across the UNC-CH Division of Health Affairs, including the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Global Public Health, as well as volunteers from physical and occupational therapy and speech and language pathology. Today, clinics operate in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina.
“My SHAC experiences have taught me a lot about leadership,” said Hotic. “From taking initiative and raising funds, to having compassion and understanding for others. Each patient who comes to SHAC has a different story, but most come out of temporary desperation and an urgent need.
“Every SHAC Wednesday, I get a clearer image of the deficits in my community, and how our skills can help solve some of those problems. Even though we are just one clinic, as a team we help hundreds of community members stop their pain and suffering.”