At 48 feet long —just five feet shy of a standard semi trailer — and 22 feet wide, it’s the largest mobile dental clinic in the world.
And the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC celebrated the opening of the colossal clinic — the crown jewel in its mobile fleet — with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and walk-through tours in February at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena.
“You know, standing here today, I can’t help but think how happy Charlie Goldstein would be to see how the program he started has flourished,” said Roseann Mulligan, DDS, MS, associate dean of community health programs and hospital affairs, referencing the late faculty member often called the “father of USC’s community dentistry.”
“Charlie often said the best thing you can do in life is to help others,” she said. “I hope to impart that wisdom to every one of my students, year after year, so that one day no one will have to suffer through dental pain simply because they cannot afford to see a dentist.”
More than 85 USC dental students attended the event, which commemorated the clinic’s opening at its first stop, where Ostrow faculty, staff and students provided dental treatment to 120 disadvantaged children.
“It is our hope that these community experiences engender in our students a lasting commitment to give back to the community,” said Avishai Sadan, DMD, dean of the dental school.
Other speakers included Marilyn Flynn, PhD, MSW, dean of the USC School of Social Work, and Catherine Hutto, who represented the Hutto-Patterson Charitable Foundation, the donating organization who made the colossal clinic possible with a $3 million gift.
“Today, my dream has come to fruition,” Hutto explained, “to combine social work and dentistry and share my family’s good fortune.” Hutto is a social worker; her grandfather was a dentist.
Hutto’s gift not only helped build the custom-made clinic and provide faculty endowments and student scholarships to community-minded individuals in both dentistry and social work, it also sets up a collaboration between the two schools to better provide health care and outreach services to disadvantaged children and their families.
After the ceremony, visitors toured the state-of-the-art clinic, which includes eight dental chairs, a separate X-ray room and a patient-calming system known as Synesthesia, in which soft music and vibrant imagery are used to soothe any frazzled dental nerves.
The mobile clinic is the eighth in Ostrow’s fleet. Outside of the military, Ostrow has the largest mobile dental clinic fleet in the nation.
USC’s mobile dentistry program began in the late 1960s when dental faculty, staff and students would drive out to remote areas in their own cars — packed full of dental tools and supplies — to provide care to migrant farm workers.
Each year, the Community Oral Health Programs provide more than $1 million in free dental care to underserved communities from Central California to the Mexican border.
— John Hobbs