Greetings From Virginia USA
The Dental Hygiene Department has long provided free and low-cost dental care for Long Island’s neediest children and families. But its commitment to good dental health extends far beyond the borders of New York State—in fact, reaching all the way to Appalachia.
"There is a tremendous need for medical care in that area," said Carol McNamara, Instructional Support Specialist. "It is very remote and most people lack the ability to better themselves health-wise, due to financial situations or level of education."
Farmingdale's connection to the poor areas of the mid-South began in 2013 when Dr. Maureen Tsokris, Chair of the Dental Hygiene Department, participated in a dental-care event sponsored by Remote Area Medical (RAM)—a Tennessee-based non-profit that provides free dental, vision and medical care to impoverished areas in southern states. The first stop for Dr. Tsokris and four of her students was the rural town of Wise, Virginia and its tiny population of 3,000, who received cleanings, fluoride treatments and oral health education.
More recently, the two staff members, along with students Kaitlyn Rostron, Ricki Gardner, Luz Raymondi, and Shreya Shah, volunteered at another RAM event, this time in Jonesville, Virginia—a poverty-stricken town on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. It was an eye-opening experience for Rostron.
"While it was wonderful to help this community for the weekend, the trip opened my eyes to the health disparities in our country and the greater issue of access to care."
Shah had the same reaction. "It makes you see what people are going through even in developed countries like ours. It is really surprising that so many people in the USA lack access to dental care."
The faculty and staff members were as hands-on as their students, providing cleanings and assisting dentists. But in giving to those in need, the visitors from Farmingdale were themselves rewarded.
"It was absolutely a dream come true," Rostron said. "The RAM trip was an amazing experience. I gained so much from stepping out of my comfort zone and helping others." All of the students came away with special memories—especially Shah.
"A lady I worked on was amazed to know that we came all the way from New York to provide them care," she said, "and she blessed me and thanked everyone involved in the event with all her heart."