Dentists donate services and smiles
By Nikki Clifton
On a cold morning last weekend, several people climbed inside a warm van parked in front of Galilee Baptist Church. The 6:30 a.m. meet time was early, but no one complained and almost everyone said good morning as they boarded.
The group set out for Fredericksburg to make the 8:00 a.m. appointment at the office of Allen and Tatem, DDS. The dentist partners opened their doors, which are usually closed on Saturdays, to offer free dental care to the group.
“I feel amazing today and I’m inspired to help people in any way I can,” said dental hygienist Tamyra Parker as she turned on the lights in the quiet building.
Dr. Taurus Tatem and her partner Dr. Camille Allen opened their office and saw patients free of charge as part of “Family and Business Inspirational Day” sponsored by the church last September. The event, which is the brainchild of Mr. Albert Johnson, Jr., hosted a dozen area businesses that showcased their services on the church lawn. Drs. Allen and Tatem offered dental screenings and exams, with Parker, lending a hand. Later that day, the schedule provided a question and answer seminar on wealth-building, business communications and education inside the sanctuary.
Tatem says that her career goal was medicine when she headed off to study at Hampton University, and a turn of events helped her decide her specialty.
“The head of the biology department was a dentist, and the day I went to visit, to follow up on my studies and make sure I was on track, the assistant quit and I started helping out. It was a done deal right then,” she said.
Tatem then completed her studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“The concept of ‘Family and Business Inspirational Day’ is to empower Westmoreland County families directly and immediately in their home lives. There are many economic challenges that face our country as a whole, so I saw this as a means of us helping ourselves,” said Johnson.
Dr. Tatem has seen a steady decline in the number of patients her practice sees due to increases in health care costs and dental insurance. In addition to her weekly schedule, she volunteers at Moss Clinic’s dental care department. Phyllis Benjamin of Montross who works as a home companion had an extraction.
“I truly appreciate what they have done today. The office visit cost [would have been] $85.00 and that’s a real stretch for me right now. The doctor explained everything in detail. They are really kind. I didn’t even know the tooth was out.”
“Events like these support Westmoreland County at-large in that they help families help themselves in their personal lives much sooner than waiting for an organization to do so. County businesses can grow when its residents are well,” said Johnson.
Benjamin Jones visited with his son who is five and daughter, who is four. The whole family got their teeth cleaned. Jones, who is employed as a laborer, doesn’t have dental insurance.
“How was it?” he asked his daughter as she scooted from the chair. “It tickles,” said the girl with a huge smile.