Monday, February 16, 2009

Dentistry from the Heart 09

Hi everyone,

I am sorry I didn't write on Friday. As you may know Friday was Dentistry from the Heart.
For some of you new readers DFTH is an annual event that I do at my office.
We give away free dental care to whoever needs it for one day.

About 5 years ago I heard a guy at a lecture tell us about DFTH. He encouraged everyone to do it.
He even put together a DVD telling you how to do it.
I think he had 3 dentists at his practice and they did it all day with just themselves.
My feeling with his day was that there was a bit of red tape for the patient.
And what I mean by red tape is the patient had to fill out a bunch of paper work and they had to fit into a certain income level.
Well, working with community health for a bunch of years, I saw that everyone does not fit into a certain box. You may have income but this doesn't mean you can afford dental work.

So we started our own gig and I put a little Gammichia flair into it.
We just open the doors. Whoever wants to stand in line and wait can be seen.
At our office we have 8 operatories, so I thought we can see more people if we have more dentists.
I solicited help from my friends and had a dentist in every room.
We use 2 rooms for Triage. This is a room for finding out what is ailing the patient and talk about how to rectify this situation. So the triage dentist goes over medical history and such then will even numb up the area.
So when the dentist in one of the other rooms meets the patient, it is already written down what they are to do and the patient is "ready to go".
I works fairly well.

Planning for this day starts, at least, five months in advance.
In addition to the dentistry there is a lot going on in the office.
There are runners getting instruments.
There are people designated for sterilization ALL DAY.
Some dentists are left handed.
Some dentists do not extract teeth.
So many things to think about in order to make the volunteers comfortable so they can do their job better.

We have supplies that are donated by Patterson Dental.
We supply food for the volunteers donated by local restaurants.
We had a DJ in the parking lot entertaining people as they waited.
We have T-shirts made for the occasion (the company gives us the shirts at cost).
A local sign company makes us a sign every year for our front lawn advertising the day.
We have to get rental chairs for the people waiting in line.
A lot of details.

But you can start to see what an AWESOME community event this is.

So let me tell you about this year (now if I start to go long this might be a two day story).
This was the toughest year by far in so many ways.
In June I usually send out the first letter to the volunteer dentists. This is kind of a Save The Date letter, and in the letter I ask them to call sign up (There is a morning session 7-11am and a afternoon session which is 12-4pm).
Just so you know, for everything to be perfect we need a minimum of 14 dentist volunteers.
At this time a couple of people called, which is what we expected.

In October we will send a second letter and this is when we make the big push to the dentists. This is also when we start to solicit help from the community. We start to call the restaurants and Patterson to see if they are still on board.
Well this is when we realized this was tough year for all our volunteers. This was a tough year for all the restaurants we have partnered with.
I would say that out of my list dentists I know and that have worked in the past...50% signed up.
And I am not the person to put the screws to people. I am not going to call them and harass them. If they don't sign up then there must be something going on that they just can't help.
The restaurants that have helped us in the past we either out of business or very tight.

So the work began...I went through the dental directory and send an email to everyone I knew. I belong to a couple of study clubs and I started to send out emails to people in my study club. Some of them I didn't even know.
I asked a couple of my every year guys if they had any friends they thought would help.
So a couple of guys came through and I got a couple of emails back and then the next thing you know I had all the dentist covered.

The restaurants were a different story. They just could not help.
I wanted to use them anyway because this is the time they needed us. So I bought some of the food. I bought 15 subs from the local sub shop, who's owner is a patient.

Then Captek a local dental company decided to use DFTH as their Holiday charity and send us a check. That was nice.

Then I hear Patterson, who has always been very generous, was tightening their screws. The rep was "just letting us know". There was a new guy at the helm and he had already committed to helping. But if he tells us he can help in August and business keeps dropping, things might not be the same in February.
They did come through this year again.
Things were starting to come together planning wise.

But my biggest fear is that we do all this, we have all the dentist show up and there not be any people to work on.
Everyone is always telling me that this is never anything to worry about. But I know people need this...they just have to hear about it.
And I heard a dentist did a free day the week before and he said he was disappointed by the turnout.
And last year it was not that crowded. I mean people were getting dentistry done and then getting back in line to get more done.

So I try to start the marketing mill. I make fliers and a week before the event I will start to post them at the Health Centers. I get the newspaper and look through the Local section. Then I email every writer they have on the local staff. I say, "I am doing something that I think might be news worthy"....and I tell them about it.
I email the local radio stations and put our event on their community calender.
I was just hoping one news outlet would bite on this.
Well, one newspaper reporter called and interviewed me.
On the Thursday before the event there was an tiny article in the Orlando Sentinel on page 7 of the Local section.
This was a big deal, apparently everyone reads page 7 of the Local section.
I had a voice mail on my phone from the local radio station and they wanted to have me on.
I called and within 45 seconds I was talking on the radio with the local radio personalities.
Now I seem boisterous to you and if you ever met me I am exactly the way I write.
But this kind of stuff freaks me out. I started to shake uncontrollably. My lip was quivering and my voice was squeaking. But I think I pulled it together enough to make myself not look bad, and I told LOTS of people about the event.
I heard through the grapevine that another radio station talked about it also.

Well then it was official. The word was out.

The phones started to ring off the hook.
Patients were calling asking if they can volunteer. People I know started to call and offer food for the volunteers.
It is amazing...the human spirit. People want to help. They want to help me and my office and they want to help their brothers and sisters they don't even know.

We had a feeling it was going to be big.

I got up like any other day and started driving to the office (just a little bit earlier...just after 6am). When my staff called me. They have breakfast together at 5am and then get to work.
Before I forget, I do a lot of the planning and decision making, my staff does almost all the work. I have one staff member as the head and without her this day doesn't happen. It is like putting on a wedding with out a coordinator.
Without our coordinator and the rest of my staff this day doesn't happen.
But I get a call, mind you it is still dark out, from one of the staff. "How close are you?"
"Uh, why?"
"It is like a mad house here."
"Oh, sh#@$%!*t "
She said, "sh#$%!*t is right."
She said, "We are going to start triaging and get this thing going."
"Okay, I will be there as soon as I can."
So I roll up and it was what I have always wanted. People everywhere wanting what we were giving.
There were lots of people. Lots of volunteers, the place was buzzing with excitement.
The first person in line got to my office at 9pm the night before. Are you kidding me?
There were 60 people in line at 5am.
There was a news truck there shooting film and people trying to fill out health histories in the dark.
My staff was already in high gear.

I will stop here and tell you about the specifics on Wednesday.
Just a hint of how it went...last year we say 102 people. This year with the same amount of volunteers we saw 128.

Have a great start of the week,

1 comment:

Debby Sutton said...

JG - found the article, found the newsreport -- LOVE IT!!!

Brings tears to my eyes to see that compassion pouring out. Way to go, my friend. That's kingdom work at its finest.

Miss you guys. Bummed I couldn't help again!


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