Volunteers in Medicine on Hilton Head Island opened a new dental clinic this week, moving its practice into a larger space that its administrators say can accommodate more than 7,000 patients each year.
The clinic near the Hilton Head Island Airport is part of a medical complex staffed almost entirely by volunteers. It provides free care to people who don't have dental insurance or who are unable to afford more comprehensive treatment.
"We're staffed by 26 volunteer dentists who give their time and expertise to this community," said Lois Schuhrke, the clinic's coordinator. "It's nice that they can now work in a new and bigger space."
The clinic's move and expansion are made possible in part through a $100,000 fundraising effort by the Van Landingham Rotary Club.
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It cost about $400,000 to move the clinic into its new building and renovate the interior. It also added three dental chairs, bringing the total to eight stations.
Schuhrke said the move has been funded entirely through grants and private donations.
"We don't take government funding of any kind," she said.
It hasn't taken long for the dentists to embrace their new office.
"We're very excited about this," said Dr. Anthea Grogono. "We're retired, but we haven't lost our enthusiasm for our work. We think this is an amazing place where we can serve people who really need us."
Grogono added that the treatment provided is "fairly simple dental work," such as cleanings, fillings and extractions. "The real reward for us is in getting people out of pain."
According to VIM spokeswoman Lisa Nowak, the clinic will not only benefit the economically disadvantaged, but also many in the community whose employers don't provide dental insurance.
Nowak explained that because of the area's seasonal tourism-driven economy, many residents work multiple part-time jobs that often don't provide dental coverage.
Dentistry is one of 22 medical specialties practiced within the island's VIM complex. Last year, according to Nowak, the Hilton Head clinic served about 14,000 patients and accommodated 33,000 visits.
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