I missed out on a wonderful charity event last month because I was in Tucson visiting with my sister-in-law Diane again. (She’s cancer free for the moment but still scared, like all of us, of the disease’s reappearance.) I spent the weekend as I always do in Tucson, eating chips and cheese dip with my nephew Joe while watching Crocodile Hunter, drinking cheap Shiraz with my brother while he insists good sushi can be found in his land-locked state and browsing through book stores for the remaining hours. Normally I enjoy being with Diane, Mike and Joe but this weekend my thoughts often drifted back to what was happening in SCV and the hard work many others were doing on that rainy weekend.
My sister Charlotte (she forces me to use this name instead of her real one in my columns. See below for the straight scoop) had talked to me of nothing other than “Doctors With A Heart” for over a month. She especially liked calling my attention to the fact that this charity event was in no way funded by tax dollars. It sounded good and deserved a column.
In 1986 Dr Duane Schmidt of Rapids, Iowa established an organization to help patients who could not afford dental care. Our very own local dental practitioner, Laurence Amelang, took up this noble cause in the eighties and early nineties. Earlier this year he, with help from Dr Joshua Kang, once again approached all SCV dentists; many of who accepted the challenge. Thanks to the solicitations of Drs. Amelang and Kang, “Doctors With A Heart” enjoyed a recent revival in our very own Newhall.
For one day, free dental services were offered to two Santa Clarita groups surely to benefit: The Food Pantry and Victims of Domestic Violence. The doctors and staffs voted to have it as near to Valentines Day as possible. The holiday’s proximity would ensure that the “Doctor’s With A Heart” program would have a memorable tie in. It was finally settled for Saturday, February 24, 2000. Some of the doctors’ family members and spouses flew in just to help with the patient flow and bilingual needs. And no doubt, to feel the reward those only charitable endeavors can give.
Dr Amelang’s office manager, my sister Lauren, (her real name, FINALLY) told me that of the doctors that had accepted some also had offered to use their own office space. Their staffs looked forward to being involved and their labs took on the extra pro bono work. Dr David Tanner had six volunteers at his office alone. Nancy, Katina, Tina, Dolores, Lisa and Helen lined up for that special Saturday duty with him. Dr Kang had the help of a bilingual assistant lent from another practice, Maria, and his own assistant Julie in tow. I was astounded to learn that so many people were willing and able to give up an entire day from their normal time off.
Oral surgeons, Drs Lang and Upham, as well as endodontist Dr Evans went beyond the call of duty and donated time after that date to do other necessary procedures. Newhall X-Rays donated all of the diagnostic film and Tony’s Dental lab donated the expensive porcelain and semi-precious metal crown work.
Dr Amelang didn’t have to do any additional coaxing to get his own staff and some of their husbands to come. Lauren, Shannon, Nicolette, Carlos, Kim, Tim, and even Danny, Dr Amelang’s son, were on hand to help with the work.
With the help of all of these kind hearted souls an estimated $9000.00 in free dentistry was provided. Any practicing dentist can tell you that’s a heck of a lot of work for one day. Just like a regular day, the true dental emergency patients were managed first. The needy families who were treated were pleased to have their much-needed cleanings, fillings, extractions and crown work done. It was first come first served but everyone was taken care of in the course of that day. All of the patients were very “patient” and grateful.
My purpose in writing about the program, “Doctor’s With A Heart”, is to get more doctors involved next time. And of course to acknowledge and thank everyone, in print, for their efforts. Dr Amelang was pleased that so many doctors, their staffs and relatives were so willing to give their time. He sincerely hopes he can attract more dentists to this worthy cause.
Does this column count as a charitable contribution or do I have to go to Tucson and eat landlocked sushi again?