Monday, April 15, 2024

Alec Simonson: The Work of FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA

Alec Simonson enrolled at the University of Florida College of Dentistry in 2021 with the aim of mastering the science and art of dental medicine. Outside of his studies, he enjoys volunteering in his spare time, providing dental care to underprivileged communities in his home state of Florida. This article will take a closer look at the work of FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA, including the life-changing free clinics staged all over the world by the non-profit organization.

Arriving at the Santa Fe College at 5.45am on October 23, 2023, Timothy Garvey D.M.D. started setting up for FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s free dental clinic, preparing for a record-breaking day of free oral healthcare. Over the course of the next hour, a steady stream of fellow volunteers joined him, including three faculty members from the University of Florida College of Dentistry; one from Santa Fe College; and two Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center dental residents. They were also joined by 13 University of Florida dental students; a dental assistant; four University of Florida Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery dental residents; and countless other volunteers to help with translation, organization, and more.

Across the course of the next seven hours, this dedicated oral healthcare team delivered free care to 72 adults and children, establishing a new record for the number of patients treated in a single day dental care event organized by FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA. Based in Ocala, Florida, FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA is a non-profit organization that specializes in coordinating clinics for qualified recipients to receive free medical, optical, and dental care.

Launched in Marion County by Ann Burnett, who continues to serve as the organization’s executive director, FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s dental team is led by Ann Burnett’s husband, Don Bovell, M.D., an emergency medicine physician. Also leading the dental team were Demetrick LeCorn, D.M.D., M.S., Simon Amir D.M.D., and his brother Jamie Amir B.D.S., M.S.

Reflecting on the record-breaking event, D.D.S. dean A. Isabel Garcia said it was very significant for her that Drs. Simon and Jamie Amir and Demetrick LeCorn are alumni of one or more of her college’s programs, acknowledging that she was very proud that Gator dentists, alumni, students, faculty, and residents alike were focusing on caring for the state’s most vulnerable members.

Timothy Garvey said that the team were ready to treat their first patient by 8am. They finished treating their last at 4pm. Garvey reflected that it was amazing to watch care providers work as a team, with more than $112,000 in donated care provided through the event. Several patients received endodontic treatment, relieving painful conditions.

Timothy Garvey has volunteered with the FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA team for several years now, organizing dental care events for those in dire need who simply cannot afford the cost of dental and healthcare. Initially, the events were staged in an auditorium at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Gainesville, where Garvey sings in the choir and is a parishioner. Screening events continue to be hosted by the church, enabling dentists to develop treatment plans for care delivery and assess patients during FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA events.

A screening event was held several weeks prior to FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s free dental care clinic, where Timothy Garvey was joined by two University of Florida College of Dentistry faculty members, including Dr. Nini Sposetti, who recently retired. As Garvey points out, this highlights just how many dental practitioners care about access to care in communities, quietly coming forward to make a difference.

Free dental services offered by FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA include examinations, X-rays, cleaning, filling, extraction, and oral hygiene education. FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s free optical services include cataract screening, glaucoma screening, diabetic eye screening, refractions, prescriptions, and reading glasses. Meanwhile, in the realms of free medical care, FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA provides school physicians, physical exams, hypertension and diabetes counseling, and general consultations. The organization also provides limited prescriptions, non-narcotic medications, skin exams, bursa injections, wound care, and nutrition and fitness information.

FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA has participated in numerous events and outreach programs designed to help underserved communities access dental, optical, and medical care. From March 13 to 16, 2023, the organization partnered with United Hands Inc., visiting the University of the Southern Caribbean in St. Joseph, Trinidad, where its team delivered free optical, dental, and medical care at the university’s auditorium at its Maracas Valley campus. With doors opening at 6.30am each day, patients began queuing as early as 2am, anxious to be seen. FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s team of 15 volunteer optometrists, dentists, and medical professionals worked tirelessly to serve the local community, embodying the spirit of humanitarianism.

In addition to its remarkable track record delivering vital healthcare services to patients across Gainesville, Florida, the wider United States, and Trinidad and Tobago, FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA’s free clinics have had a life-changing impact for people living in underserved communities all around the world, including locations as far afield as Antigua, South Africa, and Ghana.

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