Ten Saint Francis University students, faculty and staff dedicated their time and talents volunteering to help nearly 2,000 patients in need of dental treatments at a weekend-long domestic mission trip in Reading, Pennsylvania this past weekend.
The Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania organization (MOM-n-PA) is a large-scale, two-day dental clinic where treatment is provided to individuals at no cost. Each year, MOM-n-PA travels across the state with their mobile clinic treating under-served dental patients in need of care. The inaugural two-day mission took place in Philadelphia in 2013. Since then, the clinic has set up in Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Erie and just wrapped up their most recent clinic in Reading, Pennsylvania. At each clinic, approximately 1,000 volunteers help to provide roughly $1 million in free dental care.
For the past four years, Saint Francis University has organized a group of students and faculty/staff to volunteer at the weekend clinic. The seven students volunteering this year in Reading, PA were: Healthcare Studies majors, Loren Schweiger and Gabrielle Sybert; Physician Assistant majors, Emilee Fierro and Vanessa Wissinger; Public Health major, Joseph Theiss; and Biology Pre-Medicine majors, Taylin Lehman and Laura Replogle. The students were accompanied by faculty members, Dr. Tim Bintrim and Dr. Justin Merry, along with Assistant Director of Marketing, Jen Merry.
Over the course of two days at the Santander Arena in Reading, 1,874 underinsured Pennsylvanians received free dental services. Dental patients at the clinic are not charged for any services, nor are they asked to show any proof of income or insurance. The services provided include cleanings, fillings, select root canals, extractions, partial dental appliances, pediatric dentists treating children and oral hygiene instruction. The SFU students also worked alongside alumnus Dan Myers, Biology '15, who was also volunteering, having just completed his third year of dental school at Temple University.
Healthcare Studies major and ASL minor, Gabrielle Sybert, found herself utilizing her American Sign Language skills to help others. "A deaf woman came into the clinic, and I was the only one nearby who knew some sign language, so I helped her understand the process and communicate with others. It felt very rewarding to be able to help in that way.”
Service to others is embedded in the culture of the University. The students have a heart for service imparted from our patron, St. Francis of Assisi. He teaches that those that have been given much are expected to give back. The Center for Service and Learning provides the opportunity for Saint Francis University students to participate in service by coordinating the travel, hotel accommodations and securing funding for the trip. For the past three years, this domestic mission trip was funded, in part, through a generous donation from Frank Embon, class of 1959.
"Experiences such as this are transformational for our students, prompting them to step out of their comfort zone, and often helping them to affirm career paths," said Lisa Georgiana, Director of the Center for Service & Learning. "These types of community engagement opportunities are mutually beneficial for our students and the community partner."
Funding for the MOM-n-PA clinic comes from donations. For every 100 dollars donated, MOM-n-PA has been able to provide $736 worth of dental care. The 7th annual MOM-n-PA clinic in 2019 is to be held in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Patient treatment will be on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8.
Center for Service and Learning
Photo credit to MICKEY NYE PHOTOGRAPHY