Giving Voice: New dentist is making big difference at Oasis

When we temporarily closed the dental clinic in March, we understood the profound impact it would have on our patients’ oral health. Most of our patients have moderate to severe dental issues, requiring several visits to address the multiple issues that have impacted their ability to smile, eat, and sleep. Lack of fluoridated water, inability to pay for services, and years of deferred or delayed care are just some of the root causes for the dental issues our patients experience. Our patients rely on our free services to address dental issues and alleviate pain so that they can get back to their jobs and families.

We also knew that when it was safe to re-open the dental clinic, we might not have dentists who could volunteer with us, at least not immediately. Those in private practice are focused on keeping their businesses going, meaning they often work on Fridays – the day most volunteer at Oasis. Because many of our volunteer dentists are over 60 and in the high-risk category, we weren’t sure if they would return. As a result, and for the first time in our history, we hired a staff dentist for eight hours per week to provide care to our patients. This, it turns out, has been one of the best things to come out of the pandemic.

Dr. Flo Edwards started in early September and jumped quickly into action, providing almost $12,000 in free dental care during her first six weeks. She has delivered a wide array of dental services – comprehensive exams, extractions, and fillings – and our patients have been thrilled to have access to dental care again. My office is down the hall from the dental suites, and I have a front row seat to their smiles and calls of, “Thank you!” as they leave the clinic.

Being a dentist wasn’t necessarily the plan for Dr. Edwards. Growing up in Portland, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She headed to college in Illinois where she got a degree in biology and economics, minoring in classical studies. She had the prerequisites for medical or dental school and shadowed her parents’ dentist. But, teaching had appeal, and Dr. Edwards got her teaching certification from the University of New England. She taught at Bonny Eagle High School and worked at Spurwink for a while.

Dentistry, however, was still on her mind, and Dr. Edwards applied to dental school. Howard University’s College of Dentistry was at the top of her list. As a Black girl growing up in Maine, she had grown used to standing out and assimilating to those around her. The opportunity to attend a Historically Black University was a chance to be a part of and learn in a community with other Black students. As a daughter of a veteran, Dr. Edwards also decided to apply to the Army Officer Candidate School (OCS). As fate would have it, Dr. Edwards was accepted into both OCS and dental school. Through good advice and

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Faculty voice: What is osteopathic medicine? A D.O. explains | MSUToday

MSU’s Andrea Amalfitano, dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and and Heritage Foundation Endowed Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, wrote this piece for The Conversation, an independent collaboration between editors and academics that provides informed news analysis and commentary to the general public. See the entire list of articles written by MSU faculty for the conversation.

 

Andrea Amalfitano is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, or D.O., and dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He explains some of the foundations of the profession and its guiding principle: to use holistic approaches to care for and guide patients. And don’t worry, yes, D.O.s are “real doctors” and have full practice rights across the U.S.

 

When President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, many Americans noticed that his physician had the title D.O. stitched onto his white coat. Much confusion ensued about doctors of osteopathic medicine. As of a 2018 census, they made up 9.1% of physicians in the United States. How do they fit into the broader medical field?

 

How did osteopathic medicine get started?

 

In the years after the Civil War, without antibiotics and vaccines, many clinicians of the day relied on techniques like arsenic, castor oil, mercury and bloodletting to treat the ill. Unsanitary surgical practices were standard. These “treatments” promised cures but often led to more sickness and pain.

 

In response to that dreadful state of affairs, a group of American physicians founded the osteopathic medical profession. They asserted that maintaining wellness and preventing disease was paramount. They believed that preserving health was best achieved via a holistic medical understanding of the individual patients, their families and their communities in mind, body and spirit. They rejected reductionist interactions meant to rapidly address only acute symptoms or problems.

 

They also embraced the concept that the human body has an inherent capacity to heal itself — decades before the immune system’s complexities were understood — and called for this ability to be respected and harnessed.

 

What do osteopathic doctors do today?

 

Doctors of osteopathic medicine — D.O.s, for short – can prescribe medication and practice all medical and surgical specialties just as their M.D. counterparts do. Because of the focus on preserving wellness rather than waiting to treat symptoms as they arise, more than half of D.O.s gravitate to primary care, including family practice and pediatrics, particularly in rural and underserved areas.


Andrea Amalfitano

Andrea Amalfitano, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Endowed Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

 

D.O. training embraces the logic that understanding anatomic structures can allow one to better understand how they function. For example, alongside contemporary medical and surgical preventive and treatment knowledge, all osteopathic physicians also learn strategies to treat musculoskeletal pain and disease. These techniques are known as “manual medicine,” or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). They can provide patients an alternative to medications, including opioids, or invasive surgical interventions.

 

D.O.s pride themselves on making sure their patients feel they’re treated as a whole person

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