Free clinic takes pride in dental services
Mercy Medicine Free Clinic has served Florence and Williamsburg counties since 1994. Guided by strong Christian values held by Dr. N.B. Baroody, Dr. Earl Jones, Dr. Myers Hicks, Dr. Harry S. Allen Jr., Dr. James Owen, and Dr. John N. Thomason, these founders were committed to providing healthcare to low income and uninsured individuals in their communities.
Now, more than 25 years later, three volunteer dentists and a referral network of seven local dentists and one oral surgeon continue to serve the Pee Dee area. Dental services were added in 2005 when recognized as a vital need for many people unable to afford basic dental care. Last year, the clinic scheduled 290 dental visits with an additional 400 patient visits treated off-site by dental specialists, providing nearly $140,000 worth of oral health services. Dental care at the clinic consists primarily of treatment for pain and infection, including extractions, as well as restorations (fillings) and preparation for dentures and partials.
“We are very proud of our dental program,” said Wayne Jackson, executive director of Mercy Medicine Free Clinic. “Last year, we increased our dental patients by 50 percent. Not only do we restore physical dental health, we restore our patients’ dignity. They now have the confidence to apply for jobs and accept interviews.”
The clinic benefits from a partnership with Florence-Darlington Technical College and Sexton Dental Clinic, where they send patients for cleanings and x-rays, and with local dentists and an oral surgeon who offer to see patients with an additional need for dental care in their offices. The work is just as rewarding to these volunteer dentists as it is to the patients they treat.
“We see people who need care with no means for care, and it’s gratifying to be able to help in this way,” said Dr. Eddie Parker, dental director for Mercy Medicine and past President of the S.C. Dental Association.
“I have always felt that the privilege of being in the dental profession comes with the obligation to provide your skills to patients in need but without the financial means to seek care,” said Dr. Tom McDonald, also a SCDA past President.
“Being a volunteer oral and maxillofacial surgeon for Mercy Medicine allows me the opportunity to provide care to some of the deserving patients in the Florence area,”
The clinic is entirely funded through donations and grants, including those from United Way of Florence County, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative and Delta Dental of Missouri. For more information on the Mercy Medicine Free Clinic, visit www.mercymedicine.org.