Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Giving Back through Operation Bright Smiles

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, my practice held its latest outreach event, Operation Bright Smiles. My staff and I opened our office doors with the intent of treating as many veterans as we could for free throughout the business day. You all may know that I have given back through Dentistry from the Heart for 10 years, but my staff and I felt like we needed a change. I think that organizing Operation Bright Smiles was also a creative way to re-energize my team members.

Before I go on, let me give you a bit of my backstory. I know some of you are avid readers of this blog and have been for a long time, but what you may not know is that I’ve had many people tell me I have a “servant’s heart.” I think what shaped me was watching my dad being active in Rotary Club when I was a kid. I also got my ability to talk to anyone from my mom. But the biggest impact on this was the promise I made while taking the Florida Board of Dentistry exam to become licensed. It was the most grueling test I had ever taken, and I said that if I successfully made it through the test, I would use my talents to serve. Well, I passed (you needed a three out of five to pass, and I got a 3.1), and thus the basis of this event and other initiatives I’ve participated in over the years was formed.

This is how the day went: The first person was in line at 4:30 a.m. My team arrived at the office at 5:30 a.m. and fired up the grill. Local restaurants donated food for volunteers, and both breakfast and lunch were served. We began to see patients (on a first-come, first-served basis) at 6:30 a.m.

By the time 9:30 a.m. came around, we had checked in 102 patients and were turning potential patients away. I have eight rooms in my office, and each one was filled with someone providing a service. Ten University of Central Florida pre-dental students and 10 vocational technology assistant students were on hand, along with 10 additional non-dental volunteers.

I also contacted a couple of removable labs to help with a possible flipper or denture repair. I talked with two endodontists who said they would do a couple of root canal treatments each if someone presented with that need.

Work was completed in shifts. Shifts were from 7–11 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m. During the break, everyone was able to have lunch together. My brother-in-law owns DJ equipment and was outside entertaining. My sister owns a hair salon, and she and a couple of her staff members were outside as well, cutting hair.

We cleaned, we filled, and we pulled for 10 hours straight, even through the shift change. We saw all 102 patients. We were exhausted, we were thrilled, and we were spent, but we were also thankful. I have never heard so many volunteers thanking patients in my life. I couldn’t tell who was more thankful to be there. 

In addition, the dentists, hygienists, hairstylists and cooks, as well as the DJ and oral surgeon, continued to tell me throughout the day that it was just great to be there. The patients were thankful, too.

Since the event, I have received more thank-you emails. I had a patient call in a couple of pizzas to be delivered to the office for lunch. Another patient came in with a homemade cheesecake. Others have sent thank-you cards.

Everyone is ready to chip in again next year. So, in about 360 days, look for another blog post, tentatively to be titled: “Recapping the Second Annual Operation Bright Smiles Event.”

John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD

2 comments:

AnneH said...

What a terrific story! I have read every post you've made on this blog--you have a real talent for writing. As a Rotarian, it does my heart good that you credit your Dad's involvement in Rotary as a factor in your passion to serve. As aunt to 4 young men, I have always given the advice that the greatest joy is in giving and you have expressed that very well in this post. Thank you for taking the time to write and post this.

Zeynep Barakat said...

Excellent work John! Such a noble cause worthy of recognition. You are an inspiration to all of us.

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