Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dentistry With Our Hearts

Wow. I had a crazy weekend. Friday was our 8th annual Dentistry with our Hearts. It was a huge success. Before I tell you about that day, let me tell you about what had to happen before. If you don't know about it, Dentistry With Our Hearts is a day we open up our office to treat as many patients as we can for free. We limit the day to just fillings and extractions (cleanings just take too long).

But before that can happen, I sit down with my staff about 7-8 months to start the planning. We pick a Friday in February (Dental Health Month) and start planning. Last year we did it toward the end of February to avoid inclement weather. But by that time, the media blitz for Dental Health was over. So this year, we threw caution to the wind and did it the first Friday in February. The weather was perfect. And as far as the media blitz goes, well, I will talk about that at the end of this blog.

We divvied up jobs. We need people in charge of marketing; t-shirts; supplies; dentists and non-dentists; volunteers; food for the volunteers; food for the people outside; donations, a DJ. Then there is the rental equipment, including chairs, Port-O-Lets and barricades.

When the planning starts, we talk about it at every monthly staff meeting. We tighten up and give each other advice. When we get back from our Christmas break, we are just about going crazy. We go from having meetings bi-monthly to twice a week.

A week before the event, things start to happen. The signs go up at our office announcing the date. There are several marquees (banks and insurance companies with digital signs) as you go through town that announce the date. I have a place on my sign where I can add a banner. A local radio station has me on Thursday morning and we talk about the day. And even though the phone number is never given out, the phone starts to go crazy. We create a designated voicemail box that we put people through to (we are still trying to run a business here).

Last year, a dental school classmate told me he really wanted to be a part of this next time. We made plans right then that he would stay at my house and he would be a dentist volunteer. I thought that was a great idea and started to call more of my classmates. Next thing I knew, I had 5 of my classmates coming from out of town to serve with us. Along with them, we brought in 7 local dentists (who called me wanting to help). Adding to that, we have about 40 non-dentist volunteers.

I was in charge of dentist volunteers. We have had the same oral surgeon since the inception. I called him with the date. My staff talked to his staff. But when I sent the final email out on Wednesday to tell the dentists how excited I was about Friday, he was shocked. He wrote me back saying he had no idea that DWOH was in two days. I wrote him back saying, "That is not even funny. Don't mess with me. We have two rooms reserved for you."

He wasn't kidding and he had a full schedule that couldn't be changed. Crisis. My staff went into panic mode on Thursday. I was fine just doing the morning without an oral surgeon, but they wanted one. So on a day’s notice, a local oral surgeon changed her day and agreed to help. People even surprise me sometimes, and that is hard to do.

The day before, the office is stripped down and supplies are loaded in every room. Barricades are put in the parking lot, Port-O-lets and chairs are delivered. We dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and go home hoping things go well the next day. (Oh, when I left work to go home, there were 5 people in line for the next day.)

My friend arrived Thursday night and we just hung out, not knowing what the next day would bring. We got up at the crack of dawn (5:15am) and got on over to the office. We rolled up on the office and things were already buzzing. There are about 100 people in line and most of them were already filling out paper work. Local churches were there getting their booths set up. The grill man was setting up in the dark. My friend’s eyes were wide open.

We started to triage at about 5:50am. The staff and volunteers were in full work mode. Breakfast was spread all over the staff table in the back. Dentists started rolling in. People were everywhere, like a well-oiled machine.

This is where I will stop today. I will tell you about the rest of the day on Friday. But I will leave you with a link from the Orlando Sentinel. I called them to see if they might write something in the paper announcing our day. They decided to do a feature piece. Turns out, it was on the FRONT PAGE of the Orlando Sentinel (above the fold). Click here to watch the video and read the article that was in the paper (the still shot that the video opens with is the one that was on the front page of the paper on Saturday).

Talk to you Friday.


Dr. Andy said...

Awesome! Can't wait to read more about it.

Question: How do you screen for real financial need? How do you know it it not your patients (or your buddy's patients) waiting a week or two and then just having you do it for free?

thank you for sharing the planning info. I had no idea it would take THAT much planning.

gatordmd said...


Here is the thing. I don't screen anyone for financial need.
I figure if they are going to wait in line for 8 hours they are desperate enough to need a filling.
Do people take advantage? Sure they do. Maybe once a year we have someone that comes in checking their schedule with an iPad. But you know we are not going to let one person ruin it for the masses.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Wow John,
Great video on the Sentinel; really inspiring and your sincerity and commitment to helping people is very evident. Well done, I hope you inspire many others to do the same thing in their fields. I know you have inspired me.
Thanks for sharing,
Ken J


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