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New Orleans Mission of Mercy slated for February in what could be the largest dental volunteering project in world history.

New Orleans, Louisiana (12/17/2005) - - Dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians and dental office staff can be a part of what could be the largest-ever medical and dental health fair in history—helping up to 6,000 patients receive free dental care in hurricane-devastated New Orleans Feb. 6-11, 2006.

The Virginia, Kansas and Texas dental associations and the Open Door Dental Clinic of Alamance County (North Carolina), who already conduct Mission of Mercy dental clinics in their home states, have joined together to manage the dental care portion of the health fair and the ADA Foundation has provided a $50,000 grant for the project. Organizers hope to fill 125 dental chairs each day, providing much-needed dental care to up to 6,000 patients during the six-day event.

Patients will include Medicaid enrollees, uninsured, underinsured and temporary citizens who have come to New Orleans to help rebuild and may be in need of care.

"A few months ago, there was an outpouring of volunteers who wanted to help but could find nowhere to go after the hurricane," says Dr. Terry Dickinson, executive director of the Virginia Dental Association. "Through the Mission of Mercy, this is the chance to help. Come for one day, come for all the days, get in the heart of where it all happened and help some folks—give them a little extra boost."

Working with a huge logistical challenge, to say the least, the clinic, billed as possibly the largest ever free medical and dental clinic, expects to treat more than 10,000 with a variety of health care services. Still in the planning stages, coordinators hope to secure a clinic site in the next few days.

Volunteers, says Dr. Dickinson, may or may not have the benefit of amenities like hotel lodgings but they will have a place to bed down in sleeping bags or cots (a worst-case scenario) and they will have all meals provided.

"All volunteers have to do is get here," he says.

The dental clinic will require the services of at least 100 dentists each day, as well as support staff. Senior dental students from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry will also be attending, Dr. Dickinson adds, helping students see how important it is to give back to the profession and helping volunteers to serve as mentors "and to see what a great future the profession has."

"We always get more out of the MOM projects than the patients do," he says. "It's a great way for us to show the public what a great profession we have."

A $50,000 grant from the ADA Foundation, as well as donations of equipment and supplies from a variety of donors, will support the MOM clinic. Dr. Ron Lamb of World Dental Relief in Oklahoma has offered the planners all the anesthetic needed for the clinic but program organizers are still seeking donations of other needed dental supplies.

"The ADA Foundation is pleased to support this upcoming major health fair in New Orleans," says Arthur A. Dugoni, ADAF president. "We salute Terry Dickinson and the Virginia Dental Health Foundation's MOM Project for taking the lead on this project and for their outreach to the victims of the devastating hurricanes."

Volunteers can register online at the VDA Web site (www.vadental.org) using the public entrance link. Registrations can be completed electronically or forms can be printed out, filled in and faxed to the VDA. Volunteers must also send a copy of their valid board of dentistry license to the VDA to participate.

For more information, contact Dr. Dickinson (dickinson@vadental.org) or Barbara Rollins (rollins@vadental.org) or call 1-804-261-1610.

Details on the clinic venue and housing will be forwarded to volunteers as they become available.
By Stacie Crozier

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