FREEDom ClinicIt was 5:45 a.m. on Saturday, October 23 and Timothy Garvey, D.M.D., was the first to arrive at the Santa Fe College Dental Clinic to begin setting up for a record-setting day of free oral health care. During the next hour more volunteers arrived. They included two local private practitioners, two dental residents from the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, and three faculty members of the UF College of Dentistry and one from Santa Fe College. Joining them were four UF dental residents from the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, 13 UF dental students, a dental assistant who works in private practice and countless other volunteers who helped with organization, translation and more.

Together, this oral health care team provided free care for 72 children and adults in seven hours – setting a record for the numbers of patients treated in a one-day dental care event coordinated by FreeD.O.M. USA, a non-profit based in Ocala that coordinates clinics where qualified recipients receive free dental, optical and medical care.

FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA was established in Marion County by Ann Burnett, who serves as the executive director, and her husband, Don Bovell, M.D., who is an emergency medicine physician in Marion County. Joining them to lead the dental care team were Jamie Amir, B.D.S., M.S., and his brother, Simon Amir, D.M.D.; and Demetrick LeCorn, D.M.D., M.S.

“It is very significant for me that Drs. Jamie and Simon Amir, and Demetrick LeCorn are alumni of one or more of our college’s programs” said A. Isabel Garcia, D.D.S., dean. “I am very proud to know that Gator Dentists – our alumni, faculty, students and residents alike – focus on caring for the most vulnerable members of our state.”

Garvey said that by 8 a.m., they were ready to begin treating their first patient and finished their last one at 4 p.m., “it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye.”

He says it was amazing to watch how the care providers worked as a team and estimates that that between the services provided and the donated time of the volunteers, they delivered more than $112,000 in donated care.

Freedom clinic“Several patients received endodontic treatment and were relieved of some painful conditions. The personal stories of the families we helped about what they’d endured – there is no way to put a price on that,” Garvey said.

For several years now, Garvey has volunteered with FreeD.O.M. USA to organize dental care events for people in need of care who can’t afford the cost. Initially, the Gainesville events were held at an auditorium St. Patrick Catholic Church, where Garvey is a parishioner and sings in the choir. The church continues to host screening clinics for dentists to assess patients and create treatment plans for care delivery during the FreeD.O.M. Clinic event.

“During the screening event several weeks before the October 23 dental care clinic, two UFCD faculty members joined me to assess patient treatment needs, including Dr. Nini Sposetti, who is retired faculty. This just highlights how many dental practitioners truly care about access to care in our community and quietly come forward to make a difference,” Garvey said.

Currently open-air auditoriums are not optimal spaces for oral health procedures due to enhanced safety protocols implemented to protect practitioners and patients from COVID-19 transmission. For a November 2020 clinic, Gainesville dentist Dr. Elizabeth Patino hosted the dental clinic in her office. Then in April 2021 Santa Fe College offered to host in their dental center and it worked so well that the October 2021 event was also held there.

A special thank you to the following people who volunteered for the screening and/or the dental care event.

UFCD Faculty

UFCD Residents

  • Wesley McWatters, D.D.S.
  • Justin T. Norell, D.M.D.
  • Anand R. Patel, D.M.D.
  • Daniela Perez, D.M.D.

UFCD Dental Students

  • Lisandra Almarales
  • Mehak Batta
  • Ali Cabrera
  • Shannon Gardner
  • Romina Homayourn
  • David Jones
  • Callahan Katrak
  • Janelle Keary
  • Melanie Lane
  • Stacy Marcelin
  • Ethan McLeod
  • Toni-Ann McLeod
  • Rhonda Mursuli
  • Daniella Pareja
  • Elizabeth Patiño
  • Lynn Phu
  • Karley Post
  • Kevin Shan
  • Maria Valentina Lavieri Sosa
  • Yanisel Stuart
  • Maria Szymonowicz
  • Stephanni Terza
  • Haoting Tiedemann
  • Rosemarie Torres-Medina
  • Jennifer Widerman

VA Medical Center Dental Residents

  • Emily Farris, D.D.S.
  • Shannon Gardner, D.M.D.

Private Practitioners