Impacting Lives Through Free Dental Clinic in College Park, Maryland

Free Dental Clinic in College Park

Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old boy from Washington, D.C., who died after an untreated tooth infection, is the inspiration behind the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy & Health Equity Festival, which provided a free dental clinic to more than 1,200 patients last fall. The two-day event was organized by the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity's Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and held on the university's campus in College Park, Maryland.

With 1,800 volunteers present to provide $1.5 million in dental services, the festival packed the university's Xfinity Center to provide emergency dental care to poor and underserved community members. The event was a collaborative effort by the dental and health care community, Catholic Charities of Washington and the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, an NIMHD Centers of Excellence Program grantee with a mission to improve the health of residents in the state of Maryland.

"We not only demonstrate the commitment of our university, but also the power of leveraging partnerships to address our most vulnerable residents," said Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, professor of health services administration and director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland.

In addition, exhibitors at the event provided screening for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cholesterol, flu shots, eye examinations, HIV rapid tests, mental health services, one-on-one talks with nutritionists and counselors, and access to legal consultation to help with medical debt. The latter is what Dr. Thomas said is the most common reason people go bankrupt.

"We also embedded social science researchers throughout the arena to conduct surveys with patients and qualitative interviews with providers," he said. "… We incorporated the wrap-around services needed to help these residents navigate the social determinants of health."

In addition to dental services being provided by licensed dentists and hygienists, including cleanings, root canals, restorative fillings and extractions, the event was structured to provide a caring environment for those in need.

"I am inspired by the event's ability to reach so many people in so many ways," said College Park Mayor Andrew M. Fellows. "…The council and I hope that this event will return to the city and we hope we can do our part to make the event even more successful."

To learn more about the University of Maryland's Center for Health Equity, go to http://sph.umd.edu/center/che.

To learn more about the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, go to http://www.midmdmom.org/.

The University of Maryland's Center for Health Equity is an NIMHD Center of Excellence Program (grant # 5P20MD006737).