Volunteers In Medicine-NH, helping Seacoast folks in need of care, plan free Dental Day

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Volunteers in Medicine-New Hampshire offers free medical care to people in need. Now VIM-NH is about to add dental services.

Dr. Reiko Johnson, a primary care doctor, is the founder of VIM-NH. She began the program in January. With many volunteer health care providers, Johnson spent time caring for people at places like the Cross Roads House shelter in Portsmouth and the Willand Drive warming center in Somersworth.

Dr. Reiko Johnson, started a free medical clinic, initially at Cross Roads House in Portsmouth and the Willand Drive Warming Center in Somersworth, and now dental care will be added.
 For the first time, she is preparing to offer a day of free dental care for the patients she and her colleagues have identified as in need of the services.

The Dental Day of Caring will be on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Newmarket at Dr. Nate Swanson’s office, with pre-screened patients from the community, according to Johnson.

The event is not open to the general public. Johnson said they had to start somewhere, keeping it manageable for now.

Dentist inspired to get involved

Dr. Nate Swanson is one of four dentists who will offer a free dental day of caring to patients identified by Volunteers In Medicine-New Hampshire, a nonprofit working with residents of Cross Roads House and the Willand Drive warming center in Somersworth.

Swanson will be joined by three other dentists, Drs. Navreet Judge, Tim Goslee, and Jill Harrison.

Johnson and a volunteer medical student from the University of New Hampshire will help check in patients.

“I’d like to share how this got started and where we’re coming from,” said Swanson. “I was initially approached by (a UNH pre-med student) and longtime family friend who also happens to be our babysitter. She connected me with Dr. Reiko Johnson of NH Volunteers in Medicine. Dr Johnson’s group was working to provide care to members of various underserved communities, and as the first staff dentist at Families First back in 2003, this is a cause which is near to my heart.”

Dr. Reiko Johnson, founder of Volunters In Medicine-New Hampshire, and Dr. Nate Swanson meet to discuss plans to offer a free dental day of caring for underserved populations.
Swanson said his work with underserved populations was influenced by the efforts of Dr. Skip Homicz, whose dental skills, energy, fundraising, vision, and leadership resulted in care for hundreds of patients who otherwise wouldn’t have seen a dentist.

“Dr. Homicz lost his battle with esophageal cancer last January, and it was just days after his funeral I was introduced to Dr. Johnson,” said Swanson. “While Goodwin Community Health and Families First have long-running programs to care for those without dental homes, a lot of folks still fall through the cracks, and I decided partnering with Dr. Johnson would be an excellent way to honor Dr. Homicz’s passion for community outreach.”

Dr. Johnson sees volunteer doctors making big impact

Since the start of the year, Johnson said she, other volunteer doctors, nurses, PAs, pre-med students and medical assistants have offered services and have had incredibly rewarding experiences.

“We were at the Willand Warming Center last year, on the coldest day of winter,” she said. “They were busing people in from the encampments. There is a high level density of homeless people in the area. I am working now with Rochester to try and find a place to continue our work there.”

Dr. Nate Swanson is one of four dentists who will offer a free dental day of caring to patients identified by Volunteers In Medicine-New Hampshire.

“One woman came to us after urgent care refused to see her,” said Johnson. “She was an IV drug user and had an abscess because she had difficulty locating a vein. It needed to be lanced. We create a makeshift OR at the warming center, lanced the wound, drained it and gave her antibiotics. The abscess was in her soft tissue, as she ended up injecting into subcutaneous tissue. It was a volcano waiting to erupt.”

Johnson said they partner with the people operating the Families First van, who often do follow up checks for their patients.

“We have built up quite a few medical volunteers at this point,” said Johnson. “I am hoping to do the same with dentists. I am hoping this is the start of a new chapter in VIM-NH. I really want to highlight the generosity of these four dentists, and I hope it encourages more to get involved.”

Johnson directs anyone who wants to help or make a donation to: vimnh.org or facebook.com/vimnh or vim_nh2021 on Instagram.

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