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U. of L. dental students take to road

Group volunteers at RAM clinic using equipment bought with Tarrson Award funds

Louisville, Ky.—They’ve got the gear. And they know how to put it to good use.

Image: RAM volunteer: U. of L. dental student James Martineau examines a patient at the RAM clinic in Somerset, Ky.
RAM volunteer: U. of L. dental student James Martineau examines a patient at the RAM clinic in Somerset, Ky.

The University of Louisville School of Dentistry students who won the 2011 ADA Foundation Bud Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Award hit the road in September for a two-day Remote Area Medical event in Somerset, Ky., at the ready with equipment bought with their Tarrson Award funds.

RAM is a nonprofit organization that serves people in remote areas of the United States and around the world. The Somerset event included dental, medical and vision services.

The Tarrson Award annually recognizes one outstanding dental student-organized volunteer project and provides a $5,000 stipend to the school to use toward enhancing student service learning and outreach to underserved populations.

The ADA Foundation created the award in 2003 in honor of Bud Tarrson, former chief executive officer and owner of the John O. Butler Co. and an oral health philanthropist.  His widow, Linda Tarrson, continues to be involved in the program as a way to honor his memory.

In fact, Mrs. Tarrson and Mr. Tarrson’s son were on hand to see the winning students in action at the RAM event.

 “It was wonderful being able to witness the program,” Mrs. Tarrson said. “I was so moved by the volunteer spirit from the students, administration, faculty and assistant volunteers. The students were professional, organized, prepared and compassionate toward patients, and they took great pride in accomplishing their mission of providing quality access to care. It was extraordinary to watch how seamlessly they meshed with student and faculty volunteers from the University of Kentucky who joined the U. of L. students at this year’s program.”
 
At the two-day RAM clinic Sept. 8-9, nearly 80 University of Louisville dental school faculty and students volunteered to treat more than 680 patients. Their services included 1,352 extractions, 326 fillings, 140 cleanings, 59 exams and dozens of denture realignments and repairs.

“To have an event like RAM, you need both volunteers and donors,” said Dr. Brooke Osgood Fukuoka, who was part of the 2011 winning team of students. “One thing that was special about the RAM event in Somerset, Ky., was that both showed up to the gym early Saturday morning. As one of the six original members of the University of Louisville RAM student chapter, it meant a lot to me to see how the chapter has grown not only to a point where it is a cause worthy of donation, but a cause worthy for the donor to visit the site.”

The U. of L. students used the $5,000 award to purchase LED head lamps to aid in their work with dental school faculty and other volunteers in treating patients at RAM and other volunteer clinics.

“Several students approached me to say how happy they were that the student volunteer committee had decided to use the monetary award to purchase lights to be used by them and future student volunteers at these programs,” Mrs. Tarrson said. “The use of these lights helps to enhance the quality of care and experience, in lighting conditions that normally are not desirable.”

The dental school first became involved with RAM in 2005 and started annual participation in the Pikeville, Ky., RAM clinic in 2008.

“Our students are making a difference through their participation in Remote Area Medical events,” said Dr. John Sauk, dean, U. of L. School of Dentistry. “The Tarrson family had a great experience witnessing the impact of our student outreach for America’s underserved.”

Mrs. Tarrson sang the praises of the 2011 winners and reiterated how much they deserved the Bud Tarrson Award.

“They each individually and as a team have brought honor and prestige to the award, and I am forever grateful and thrilled that the award and the ADA Foundation were able to offer such recognition to their dedication and efforts,” she said.