MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University School of Dentistry Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) Class of 2015 just couldn’t wait until their tassels were turned to start caring for West Virginians’ oral health. The 48 students in the graduating class donated more than $700 to the We Care Fund to help underprivileged people receive care at the WVU Dental Care clinic.
The We Care Fund was established at the WVU Foundation in 2003 by William “Bill” McCutcheon, D.D.S., former associate dean for academic affairs at the WVU School of Dentistry, to reimburse the WVU dental clinic for care provided to Milan Puskar Health Right patients. Health Right provides free medical, vision, and dental care to uninsured and underinsured patients.
“We decided that we wanted to show our appreciation not only to the university but also to the community that is so close to our hearts,” Shayna Adamovich, class treasurer, said. “Health Right is such a wonderful program, and many of my classmates and I have had extraordinary experiences making dental care available to those who could not otherwise afford it. Our hope is that this program continues to grow and benefit our community, as well as contribute to our underclassmen’s education.”
The We Care Fund has also received support from several other members of the WVU School of Dentistry over the past year. David Felton, D.D.S., M.S., professor of restorative dentistry, and his wife, Sue; Christina Bianco DeBiase, Ed.D., associate dean for academic affairs; Ceda Reed, dental assistant; and Barbara Walters, dental assistant, donated to the fund. Delta Dental also donated $10,000 to the fund.
David Whiston, D.D.S., a WVU School of Dentistry alumnus (’65) and retired president of the American Dental Association Foundation, and his wife Julia, executive director of the White House Correspondents’ Association, established the David and Julia Whiston Oral Healthcare Fund in 2013 to provide dental care for Health Right patients as a way to honor the memory of their loved ones.
Health Right provides dental care at no cost through the WVU dental clinic, as well as partnering private practices.
“The WVU dental clinic is, in my opinion, a huge safety net for the whole state. I have patients that come from the northern panhandle and other areas because they just have no other option,” Laura Aliff, dental advocate at Health Right, said.
Health Right’s dental services are in constant demand. The waiting list is more than 500 patients long, and new patients are added as fast as other patients are seen. Many of these patients are waiting for basic restorative care, such as fillings.
The dental care patients receive through Health Right can be life-changing. Improved dental health contributes to greater quality of life and has even helped some patients find better jobs.
“We had one man early on in the program that was meeting with one of our social workers. The man would never make eye contact, he never looked up. Once he got his dentures, when he came in he made eye contact with people, and it just made a huge difference in his overall wellness,” Aliff said.
The WVU School of Dentistry’s relationship with Health Right is one of mutual support. Health Right relies on the School’s clinic to provide care for the majority of its patients, and the School is able to offer its students hands-on experience with challenging cases.
The We Care Fund, supported by donations such as the one from the Class of 2015, helps the WVU Dental clinic continue to provide quality care to the most vulnerable in the community while training the next generation of West Virginia’s dentists.
The gift was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion fundraising effort by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.