Dental Expansion begins at Western Tidewater Free Clinic

Published 5:56 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

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By James W. Robinson

It was a celebratory morning for Western Tidewater Free Clinic as city officials joined them for a Friday, April 14 groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of the dental suite’s expansion. 

The expansion’s funding success follows the clinic’s 15th anniversary in 2022. Donors supporting the expansion include Obici Healthcare Foundation, Violet Greco Foundation, Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation and Hampton Roads Community Foundation. Likewise, funding from capital reserves from the WTFC’s Board of Directors also helped to fully fund the expansion project. Provided funding details were as followed:

  • Obici Healthcare Foundation, $500,000 
  • Hampton Roads Community Foundation, $100,000 
  • Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation, $50,000 
  • Violet Greco Foundation, $50,000 
  • $7,000 was provided from outside funding as well. 

Speakers at the ceremony included WTFC Executive Director Ashley O. Greene, WTFC Board Chair Bob Hayes, Violet Greco Foundation Board Chair, the honorable Chris Jones and Suffolk Mayor Michael D. Duman. Following Friday’s ceremony, Greene took the time to speak about the groundbreaking as well as provide details on the expansion itself.

“We were all very excited to be celebrating in that way. We also had good friends of the clinic who had joined us for the day,” Greene said. “We had it that morning just before the rain came in so it was good timing.”

She said the event was truly a good time for all involved because it is the first expansion there since WTFC moved there in 2009.

Speaking on the capital campaign for the dental suite’s renovation, Greene said this new expansion will allow WTFC to serve 200 more patients in its first year. 

“We have had a waitlist for our dental services, so we’re really excited to hopefully alleviate some of that issue,” Greene explained.

“There’s been a great need in our service area for dental care and we’ve been able to try and fulfill it, but this expansion going from two chairs to four chairs will allow us to do so in a more efficient, more updated space and also being able to see more patients at a time in the new facility,” she said.

With increasing the chair numbers, the capital campaign also includes plans for adding 1,000 square feet for the dental suite. The expansion also follows WTFC’s 2022 addition of Dr. Fallon Berger, who serves as the first permanent, full-time dentist in the clinic’s history. 

Greene offered high praise for Berger getting “quickly up to speed” upon joining the team as well as the importance of her addition. 

“This ability to have a dentist here for five days a week is so exciting for us, especially because it’s never happened,” she said. “We had permanent part-time dentists. We also have a hygienist on staff so we will keep that. I think there’s potential for growth, for staffing as we move into the new space and get acclimated with what we can do in that space.”

Despite the new changes, Greene still emphasizes that volunteers for the dental suite are still “critical” with volunteers continuing to lend their service to WTFC since the dental aspect of the clinic’s opening in 2010.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done for dental services without our volunteers. In fact, Dr. Leroy Howell was at the ceremony on Friday and he was one of our very first local dental volunteers,” Greene said. “So it was really awesome to have him with us because he can celebrate and see the growth since his early days of coming to the clinic.”

Greene expressed her hopes for dental suite expansion and its future. 

“I think from right now to what the future brings is really the same goal, which is to allow access to dental services for those who need it most and that’s the reason we have a dental clinic here,” she said. “It’s partly because it creates a health home for our patients, and good oral health affects your other health. So it’s a whole individual approach to healthcare and integrated healthcare such as oral care, medical care and we have mental health here as well. Within the same facility is the best practice approach so that providers can treat the whole patient, and we’re really excited to be able to do that here at this facility.”