The University of Illinois at Chicago soon will open a new satellite medical clinic on Chicago’s Southeast Side that will offer dental services for the indigent two days per week. The new dental service is made possible by a federal Ryan White Title III grant obtained by Dr. Mario Alves, Director of the Ryan White Clinic for HIV/AIDS patients and Clinical Professor of Periodontics at the UIC College of Dentistry.
“Dental services are severely lacking for indigent people across the Chicago area, whether HIV-infected or not,” said Dr. Alves. “However, oral health care is especially important for HIV-infected individuals. We anticipate that, because the need for oral health care services for HIV-infected populations on the Far South and Southeast Sides of Chicago is so great, we will see a large number of patients.”
The grant included $19,208 for supplies and equipment such as an autoclave, amalgamator, and cavitron, as well as a chair that can be used for both dental and medical examinations. Another $40,000 in the grant will go toward the dentist’s salary.
The dentist will “start mostly with triage and do very basic dental procedures,” Dr. Alves said, “such as scaling and root planing, initial exams, treatment plans, and simple emergencies. If patients need something more complicated, the dentist and staff there will be able to expedite their care by referring them to the college.
“That’s very important,” he explained, “because if they come from the South Side to the college without having gone to the clinic in their own neighborhood first, and we tell them we need blood work and we have to evaluate the medical part, they may have to make the long trip here three times. This way, they make one visit to their neighborhood clinic and only one trip here.”
A Southeast Side clinic also is important for recalls. “If patients have to come all the way to the college and drive and park or spend two hours on public transportation, they’re not going to come for follow-ups if they feel good,” Dr. Alves added. “But they’ll go to a nearby neighborhood clinic.”
A UIC clinic at 47th St. and King Dr. that operated several years ago taught some valuable lessons, Dr. Alves noted. “We learned it’s important to get a person from the community to work there as a contact because most people won’t come because they’re afraid of the unfamiliar,” he said. “But when there is a person from the neighborhood there, patients will come and eventually trust the dentist when he or she refers them to the college."