June 20, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (June 20, 2018)—Tallahassee Community College and the Kearney Center are working together to provide dental health services to individuals who are homeless.
Third-semester students from TCC’s Dental Hygiene program are now doing externships at the Kearney Center on West Pensacola Street, providing services under the supervision of the dentists and hygienists who already staff the clinic there.
At a June 18 meeting of the TCC District Board of Trustees, Heather Mitchell, executive director of the TCC Foundation, introduced two community members at the heart of the partnership, local dentist Russell Rainey and Rick Kearney, founder and chair of the Kearney Center.
Rainey, who is a member of the boards of directors of both the TCC Foundation and the Kearney Center, and a former member of TCC’s Dental Health Programs advisory board, was instrumental in getting the partnership off the ground. He said that since the externships began in early June, TCC dental hygiene students have already provided $20,000 in care to Kearney Center clients. Rainey praised the student hygienists for their enthusiasm and openness to the experience, which brings them into contact with patients who may have very high needs because of their lack of previous care.
“This is the real-life stuff—some of the hardest cases they’ll see in the clinical careers,” said Rainey.
Kearney agreed, noting that many Kearney Center clients have never before been examined or treated by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Melissa Olson, who is TCC’s dental health program chair, said that in addition to giving her students valuable clinical experience, the externships also help to instill in them the value of volunteerism, which is an important element of the dental health field.
“We hope that when they are professionals, our graduates will be the first ones to rise to the occasion” when asked to volunteer in the community.
Students in TCC’s Dental Health programs also serve externships at other sites in the community, such as Molar Express in Tallahassee, Neighborhood Medical Center in Havana, and the Veterans Affairs dental clinic in Tallahassee.