Philadelphia – Responding to an immediate need for dental care in the community, Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty recently created a pop-up clinic for more than 60 Afghani refugees awaiting permanent placement in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Many arrived in the U.S. in August and their resettlement is being managed by the Philadelphia-based Nationalities Service Center (NSC), which supports immigrant and refugee clients with health and wellness services, community integration, legal protections, opportunities to achieve English language proficiency, and more. NSC has been partnering with Penn Dental Medicine since 2019 when the School established its Vulnerable Populations Clinic, referring patients requiring dental assistance to the Clinic.
“NSC does tremendous work for the immigrant and refugee population, and we are honored to partner with them in serving their clients. So when we learned of this special need, we were eager to help. We pulled the pop-up clinic together in just four days,” says Dr. Olivia Sheridan, who directs the School’s Vulnerable Populations Clinic, and worked with Dr. Leonard Jensen, Dental Director of the School’s Community Dental Care Centers, and hygienist Karoline Genung, to recruit student volunteers and organize the clinic.
The clinic was set up on a Saturday within the residential hotel where the refugees are currently living. Sixteen third- and fourth-year DMD students, along with Drs. Sheridan and Jensen and Ms. Genung, provided care to more than 60 patients, with future appointments made for another 35 patients and 100 hygiene kits dispensed. The major concern of the majority of the families was dental pain and disease. Along with dental exams, fluoride varnish was applied in the oral cavity of everyone seen and over 50 units of silver diamine fluoride were placed and several atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) restorations completed. A number of emergent cases were referred to the School’s Vulnerable Populations Clinic for care. In addition to dental care, extensive hygiene and nutritional advice was provided.
“We did not stop until we ran out of supplies,” recalls Dr. Sheridan, noting that the tremendous need for care has prompted the School to expand the service of its Vulnerable Populations Clinic. Starting January 7 and running through July 1, the Clinic will expand its service hours from two to three days per week. “Dean Mark Wolff and the entire School administration are deeply committed to supporting these efforts and our student and faculty volunteers have clearly heard the call,” adds Dr. Sheridan. “They continue to step up and provide this much-needed care for our newest arrivals.”