Local residents will get a change at better health in August, when the Westchester-based Collaborative Underserved Relief and Education (CURE) Network opens the doors at Malcolm X College. Volunteer physicians, ophthalmologists and dentists -- along with auxiliary and support staff -- will provide three days of free care to needy patients.
Plans are in place for a three-day event at Chicago’s Malcolm X College Aug. 19-21. A partnership with RAM will bring portable units and 20 volunteers to oversee logistics on site, while CURE leaders are working now to secure volunteers and funding for the event.
According to executive director Josette Szalko, the event will require at least $225,000 and 500 volunteers, both professionals and lay people.
Chicago is in great need of our services and we hope you will commit one day of your time to helping us reach out and serve those individuals who have limited options for dental care. If you have helped with Mission of Mercy in the past, you know how fulfilling this type of experience is. If you have the desire to volunteer, but just haven't done it yet, this is your opportunity to reach out and positively affect the lives of thousands of Chicagoans. Volunteer dentists and auxiliaries are needed at CURE’s inaugural event to provide cleanings, X-rays and fillings, extractions and some more complex restorative procedures to an estimated 1,000 patients per day. The clinic will be open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
To volunteer, please visit www.ramvolunteers.org to register. All you need is a valid dental license and a few moments of your time to complete the registration process. We encourage dental volunteers to bring their own assistants, if possible, to be as efficient as possible.
Also on site in August, physicians will provide check-ups, heart tests, gynecological and prostate exams, and screenings for diabetes and skin cancer to 1,000 patients per day (a $1.1 million value). Vision services will include basic eye exams, refraction, ophthalmologic evaluation and prescription glasses in the Mission of Mercy and Remote Area Medical's (RAM) mobile vision lab for 500 patients a day (a $700,000 value).
CURE was founded in 2010 by physician Ken Nelson and ophthalmologist Rama Jager, who knew that local clinics had long waiting lists full of patients with limited resources but tremendous needs for basic care — and even longer waiting lists for specialty care. The doctors knew about successful care events like those hosted by RAM, and felt confident that local healthcare providers would make a homegrown event similarly successful.
With a stack of 750 blank forms beside
them, more than 100 volunteers opened the Special Smiles tent at
Eckersall Stadium under sunny skies May 4. This annual feature of the
spring Special Olympics offers free oral screenings and hygiene
instructions to the athletes.
“The purpose of today is to help dental
professionals who might not normally see patients with special needs and
the athletes get comfortable with each other. We’re in a beautiful,
non-threatening, park-like setting, and the athletes will meet a dentist
with a friendly smile. It just puts everyone at ease,” said co-chair
Fred Margolis, a dentist who marked 18 years with Special Smiles this
From the dental education center,
athletes could see a booth sponsored by Legoland, the bleachers and
playgrounds. They heard an announcer call for athletes in standing long
jump, wheelchair races, assisted races, and other events to gather in
various areas of the stadium.
Volunteers, meanwhile, were focused on
their given tasks: to greet the athletes, complete the oral screening,
talk to the athletes and their caregivers about at-home care, and
sometimes discuss follow-up care. All visitors that day received goody
bags filled with toothpaste, a new toothbrush, floss and a list of
resources for follow-up care.
Volunteers represented the Academy of
General Dentistry; Alpha Omega dental fraternity; the University of
Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry; Loyola University Medical
Center; Illinois Masonic Hospital; and the Grottoes, a charitable,
fraternal organizations affiliated with the Masons. One special project
for the Grottoes nationwide is to arrange for (and sometimes help fund)
dental care for patients with special needs in their communities.
“The volunteers are essential to our
success,” said co-chair Ricardo Mendoza, also a dentist. “We have
volunteers who have been coming for years because they want to be a part
of this day. They all understand the importance of the event, and that
dental care is another challenge for these patients.”
North Side dentist Ilie Pavel and his
son, first year dental student Chris, participate every year. Chris
wasn’t even swayed by the pathology exam he would take the day after the
“We always enjoy coming to this, every year,” Dr. Pavel said.
“My whole staff loves it,” echoed Loop
dentist Maharukh Kravich. Upon uttering the magic words “no cavities,”
Dr. Kravich received a big hug from her first patient of the day, a
young female athlete clad in bright blue sweatpants. “We put it on the
schedule as soon as the e-mail comes every year.”
First-time volunteer Sue Schietert was no
less enthusiastic. Ms. Schietart sees one patient with autism regularly
and remembers fondly her experience at Little City while still a
“I’m excited to be a part of this all and
do something with the kids,” said Ms. Schietert, a hygienist in Jim
Frett’s Mount Prospect office. “It’s humbling and enlightening to be
Dental professionals interested in volunteering for the next Special Smiles event should contact Dr. Mendoza at email@example.com in February.
by Joanna Brown