The Grace Clinic teamed up with North Carolina Baptist Men to provide their first dental clinic in Elkin. Held at the First United Methodist Church on Friday and Saturday, the clinic was sponsored by Dr. Mark Halbedl and his staff at Parkwood Dental.
According to Hugh Quinn, director of the Grace Clinic, the clinic opened in 2005 as a Christian ministry to serve residents of Surry, Yadkin and Wilkes counties by providing basic health care services and health education at little or no cost. Three days each week the clinic staffs a physician assistant, nurse and phlebotomist. Each Tuesday evening doctors from the community volunteer to provide care.
With close to 500 patients, the clinic has offered eye clinics and flu clinics in the past. Quinn said, a dental clinic “is something we have talked about because we have a lot of patients who need dental work and it’s very difficult for them to get it normally.”
Planning for the free clinic began last fall when a staff member from the Grace Clinic went for her regular dental visit with Dr. Halbedl. According to Quinn, the pair had the idea of bringing together their specialties, dental care and serving the low income population.
All services for the two days were done on a volunteer basis by qualified professionals. “There are some costs involved, and Dr. Halbedl has underwritten that this time,” said Quinn.
The NC Baptist Men’s dental ministry provided its bus, complete with two patient rooms and x-ray machines. “They go around the state with two mobile units providing dental services,” said Quinn. The Baptist Men provided the bus, driver and nurse to assist the dentist.
Hosted by the First United Methodist Church, Quinn explained, “We used a couple rooms in their building for registration and waiting room area. Mark Barden is the pastor, and he has been very helpful.”
“Dr. Halbedl has taken a major lead role with this. He has been great to work with, he put a lot of effort into this, and he’s doing all the work on the bus,” said Quinn, adding, “without a dentist, you don’t do this.”
A Spanish interpreter was on site to assist several patients with limited English. “We want to make sure that we know what the patient is feeling and what the patient’s needs are,” explained Quinn.
The team saw more than 20 patients during the two-day clinic, performing extractions, fillings and other dental services. “We were able to see two patients off the waiting list,” said Quinn.
“When the people leave, they are all very appreciative of getting some work done,” said Quinn, noting many of them need extensive work due to infrequent care from lack of affordable services. Patients also were given a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste to continue their dental care at home.
Explaining this first clinic was a trial, Quinn plans to complete an evaluation before proceeding with future events. “Hopefully we can make this a regular occurrence,” said Quinn, noting it will require engagement from other dentists in the community.
“It is heart warming to see a need being met,” said Quinn, adding, “We feel fortunate that the weather held out for us.”
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or services offered by Grace Clinic, call 336-835-1467.
Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.