Unique dentistry clinic opens at Welcome Hall Mission
By Brett Hooton
On Quyen Su’s first day, a patient had a seizure in her chair.
But the fourth-year McGill Dentistry student doesn’t seem too shaken when looking back at the difficult start to her recent rotation at the Jim Lund Dental Clinic at Welcome Hall Mission (WHM).
“Through the Dentistry Outreach Program, I see a lot of people who need dental work but can’t afford it,” she explained. “That has changed my view of dentistry as a profession. I’ve learned that the inability to pay for necessary treatments affects a person’s life, down to even being able to speak to other people.”
Treating those who have had little or no access to dental care, she notes, requires extra compassion.
A unique partnership between McGill and Welcome Hall Mission, the Jim Lund Dental Clinic began receiving patients in November and was officially opened Friday, Feb. 11 in the presence of Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc.
The new permanent clinic is the latest component of the Faculty of Dentistry’s innovative approach to teaching through service in the community. Housed at one of Montreal’s oldest and largest outreach organizations, the clinic provides free, basic dental care to the homeless, low-income families, the elderly, the disabled and recent immigrants and refugees – all who turn to WHM for assistance.
“I applaud McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry for this much-needed service,” said Cyril Morgan, CEO and Executive Director of Welcome Hall Mission. “Now, we know we’ve done our job right when someone turns their life around and they can really smile again.”
In the past, McGill offered mobile dental services at WHM twice a year.
“A dental clinic is costly to build and manage,” he told the audience at the opening ceremonies, referring to the partners who came together to make the project happen. “If not for all of them, we would not be here today.
“We are on the front lines – daily – helping the disadvantaged of Montreal.”
The clinic is open three days a week, serving about 12 patients by referral per week. McGill dental students and residents provide the treatment, overseen by McGill faculty, while WHM provides the space, a secretary and a dental assistant.
The clinic is named in memory of Dr. Jim Lund, McGill’s long-time Dean of Dentistry, who died suddenly in December 2009. Lund was a passionate advocate of quality dental care for all members of society, and it was during his tenure that the Faculty’s Outreach Program was established.
“There are many well-recognized barriers to accessing dental care – financial, geographic, physical and cultural, for example,” said Dr. Paul Allison, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, in an interview. “When I became Dean in 2008, I wanted to expand upon our existing outreach programs and create permanent satellite clinics to better serve those who would otherwise fall through the cracks.”
Lund worked tirelessly to encourage outreach on the part of dentists to the disadvantaged, Allison told the crowd. “We pay tribute to all the work Jim did to make this possible.”
And the greater Montreal community has embraced efforts by McGill and WHM to aid the city’s less-fortunate citizens. Private donors to McGill – including the R. Howard Webster Foundation, the George Hogg Family Foundation, and A-dec, a dental firm – ensured the clinic’s construction and paid for some of its start-up costs. Funds will continue to be sought for the clinic’s operational expenses. All donations to the Jim Lund Dental Clinic contribute to the momentum of Campaign McGill: History in the Making.
“When people aren’t at their optimal dental health, it disrupts the way they function and how they integrate themselves into society,” Su said. “The simple ability to smile confidently can have a big impact on their lives.”
McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum spoke at the opening ceremony of “the inspiration we all get from our students and faculty who see this as a fundamental part” of their mission and noted “how proud we are at McGill of this extraordinary collaboration.”
Bolduc, who toured the clinic, spoke glowingly of the project’s importance in trying to improve the health of the disadvantaged in Montreal.
With files from Allyson Rowley and Doug Sweet.