Cleaning the chompers of communities: Greeley woman starts mobile dental clinic in Guatemala

Many years ago, in the early stages of Suzanne Hubbard’s late second career as a dental hygienist, a man came into the office with a swollen face.

His cheeks looked like marshmallows. He needed help. But the office turned him down because he had Medicaid. It was the fifth time an office turned him down that day, he told them as he left. It broke her heart.

She decided that when she made the decisions, she wouldn’t turn anyone away. She wanted to open her own clinic for more than a decade just for that reason. Now she’s the owner of Hubbard Family Dental Hygiene clinic, 2918 10th St., and more than 80 percent of her clients are Medicaid patients.

That man with the swollen face changed her life. It inspired her to dream big, and he’s also the reason she will travel to Guatemala in three weeks with her husband, Greg, and her dental assistant, Cindy Harbert, to start a mobile clinic. She has big plans down there, too.

Hubbard, now 53, worked odd jobs for years, at Greeley-Evans School District 6 or cleaning houses, while she raised the couple’s two children, Ashley, now 26, and Josh, now 24. Greg worked for 31 years at UPS. One day, Hubbard’s sister, a hygienist, invited Hubbard to watch. By the end of the day, Hubbard knew she had found her calling.

Never mind she was in her late 30s at the time or that her kids were teenagers and that they still had a house and cars to pay off. She went back to school. She’s now worked as a hygienist for 12 years.

Recommended Stories For You

Just a couple years into her new career, Hubbard mentioned several times that she would like to start her own place. Greg’s mother, Donna, said she would loan them the money, but several places didn’t work out. Donna then got pancreatic cancer and died, and she left Hubbard the money to start her own place, as long as Hubbard gave back 10 percent of the profits to Greeley.

She opened in fall 2015. It was frightening and yet exciting, Greg said. He already was retired and hoped to play golf. Now he helps run the clinic. He even had to go back to school himself in a sense to learn about the intricacies of Medicaid and dental insurance. They also fought to get the word out: Most Medicaid patients don’t realize dental care is covered. Now the clinic has 2,500 patients.

The clinic is unusual in because Hubbard, a hygienist, owns it. She rents out the practice to two dentists, and she loves them both. The business model makes sense, she said, for young dentists who can’t afford the huge overhead of their own place while they’re getting established.

The three will leave Oct. 14 and spend more than a week at the Casa Angelina, an orphanage that serves kids who came from the sex trade industry. They’ve received donations from business partners who also sponsor some of their pro bono work on Greeley’s poorest patients. The Hubbards should be able to get enough equipment for two motorized dental chairs and two portable units and fill the cavities and clean the teeth of the 115 in the orphanage. Then they will serve another 200 who live in a dump, where dental care is “frightening,” as Hubbard puts it.

She and Harbert are looking forward to it. The desperate situation means she and Harbert are allowed to do real dental work, including, unfortunately, extractions and fillings and treating gum disease.

Once they get all their equipment established down there, they hope to go back every six months. They even hope the clinic can stand on its own one day, so they can buy a bus with more mobile units and travel to nearby villages to do even more work.

Donna, Greg’s mother, had the same heart for helping people that Hubbard now demonstrates. She wanted to ensure Hubbard got to fulfill her dream to help others. Her picture keeps watch over the clinic’s front desk and the people who wait for Suzanne’s care both in Greeley and abroad.

— Staff writer Dan England is The Tribune’s Features Editor. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or e-mail dengland@greeleytribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @ DanEngland.

To help

To donate to the Hubbard’s Guatemala trip, send it to Greeley Wesleyan Church and say it’s for the trip. Send it to the church, 3600 22nd St., Greeley, CO 80634.

Readers Write: Trump and the NFL, the Affordable Care Act, YouthLink and homeless young people

I care very little, if at all, what professional athletes think about anything outside their area of expertise. And I am not sure President Donald Trump should care, either (“With silent protests, NFL rebukes president,” Sept. 25). If sports franchises choose to allow their organizations to serve as a forum for athletes to express themselves on topics unrelated to what they were hired to do, that’s their prerogative.

As far as I can tell, “taking a knee” during the anthem represents a protest against “social injustice.” This term would seem to apply largely to racial-, ethnic- or gender-specific discrimination, but maybe more than that depending on whom you talk to — or who is kneeling. If the objective is to highlight the need to eliminate or greatly diminish social injustice, I think it’s fair to ask who will decide what success means and what will be the measurement in claiming success.

Hopefully, part of some process will lead to serious dialogue on what exactly is “social justice” and what might be viable solutions. With subjective opinions being inevitable, I am not optimistic about an agreed-upon resolution anytime soon. In the interim, I will continue to stand for the anthem and for what I think it represents, including mechanisms to facilitate addressing these issues.

For those who choose not to stand with me, our freedom to disagree is the one factor that gives me the most hope.

JEFFREY PETERSON, Minneapolis

• • •

My response to the players and the NFL regarding this weekend’s protest is as follows: Stop the kneeling, sitting and the moral indignation if you have done any of the following in the last year: 1. Disrespected your wife or girlfriend — that means hitting or abuse in any fashion — and it should go without saying, but that includes the use of a prostitute and strip clubs. 2. Assaulted anyone or carried an illegal weapon. 3. Ingested any performance-enhancing drugs. 4. Ingested any illegal or illicit drugs. 5. And most important, stand up if you have not protested or become involved out of the spotlight/stadium, in street clothes on your own personal time. To the fans I say: Go spend the time with your family or loved ones next Sunday.

DAVE CONKLIN, Victoria

• • •

As a veteran, I am sickened by the lack of respect for my flag. It’s not that I disagree with the purpose of the protest; it’s the method. My suggestion is that the pro teams take down the American flags in and near the stadiums and quit playing the national anthem. End of problem.

BRUCE HARMS, Plymouth

• • •

While the conversation and debate around the NFL players centers on what is “respectful” protest or “disrespectful” to our flag, I find a greater undercurrent of concern. For the second time in as many weeks, this administration has called on private businesses or privately held corporations to fire employees based on what it sees as disrespectful or inappropriate behavior by their employees toward the administration or the country.

In the first instance, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that ESPN’s Jemele Hill should be fired for voicing an opinion regarding Trump. In the second, you have Trump saying NFL players should be fired for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. This, to me, is a scary and slippery slope. Yes, Harris is black, as are the majority of NFL players taking a knee. But the race issue aside, we have an administration saying a private citizen should be dismissed from employment for “disrespectful” statements about the president or “disrespecting” the flag. That is one step closer to totalitarianism.

When our government calls for dismantling the livelihoods of private citizens because the government disagrees with them, our Constitution has lost all meaning.

ERIKA CHRISTENSEN, Lake Elmo

• • •

If you do not put down your drinks and snacks when watching a sporting event such as the NFL, NBA, NASCAR or other events and stand up when the national anthem is being sung or played, you should not complain what others do. Just because you are not at the event does not give you the right to sit the national anthem out.

Donald P. Weaver, Minneapolis

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Minnesota health care leadership shows folly of ‘repeal and replace’

A vote to “repeal and replace” Obamacare is gross negligence posing as conservative health policy by the majority party in Congress and the president. My former colleague in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of Graham-Cassidy: “I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.” Thank God John McCain, R-Ariz., had the nerve to disagree. Again.

Minnesota has been the national leader in implementing “reform” not “replacement” of Medicare, Medicaid and the public tax subsidies for private health insurance. Health services research nationally has repeatedly told us that Minnesota health care providers provide better and more effective services to everyone — especially those with chronic illness, disability or aging into disability — than health professionals and hospital systems in any other state. Our health system works at constantly focusing us on our health and the appropriate use of medical and long-term-care services.

We’ve accomplished this by taxing ourselves to expand access and coverage to those who cannot afford it. Obamacare finally gets the taxpayers of America, including all those states that opposed its implementation, to help pay for value-based health and medical reform in their states. Graham-Cassidy would reverse course: rewarding the states that have refused to tax themselves to help pay for those who cannot afford this system, with money taken from Minnesota federal-income-tax payers and reducing our earned share of these funds. Any member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation who supports the current effort to “repeal and replace” will not receive my vote for re-election nor does he deserve yours.

Dave Durenberger, St. Paul

The writer, a Republican senator from Minnesota from 1978 to 1995, is a former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee on health. He retired in 2014 as chairman of the National Institute of Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas.

HOMELESS YOUNG PEOPLE

The power of a simple gesture

Thank you for the commentary by Jamie Nabozny (“Giving homeless young people hope,” Sept. 23), highlighting YouthLink. I have the privilege of volunteering four days a week at YouthLink, and I serve on the board of MoveFwd, an organization serving the same population in the western suburbs. Every day I am touched and astounded by the young people surrounding me, with their resilience, sense of humor and vulnerability. They don’t want to be in their current situation, but they have no viable alternative. And they are missing out on what young people in “normal” circumstances take for granted.

Case in point: I was asked by staff to drive a young person to a couple of appointments. I didn’t know this individual well, so when we started out I asked him to tell me a bit about himself. Eventually, he told me it had been his birthday a couple of days earlier. I asked if anyone had sung “Happy Birthday” to him. He looked down and said “no.” So I started to sing to him … and he burst into tears. Something so simple making that kind of impact. Wow. I am thankful to know these kids. And they are lucky that organizations such as YouthLink and MoveFwd are here to help them get on the right track to a positive future.

Susan Gethin, Minneapolis

Pensacola residents, business owner weigh in on Obamacare repeal

Pensacola residents, business owner weigh in on Obamacare repeal

President Trump’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is losing ground.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy introduced a health care bill over the weekend.

It was revised on Sunday to allow further Medicaid expansion in certain states.

Republicans have until the end of the month to get the measure passed in the Senate.

After that, it would take a 60-vote majority to pass. It will be a tough battle to pass the bill.

Senators Rand Paul and John McCain said they will vote no.

Republicans can’t afford to lose another vote. Just 20 percent of Americans approve the bill, according to a new CBS news poll 52 percent disapprove.

“I thought the Affordable Care Act was a better option than what existed before,” said Pensacola resident Mark Robinson.

“If they repeal the Affordable Care Act I have no idea what our premiums are likely to be,” said Pensacola resident Helen Hudson.

“I hope they do repeal parts of it, parts of it are good and maybe Congress can get together on how to keep the good parts, but I just think it is two owners for small businesses,” mentioned Oar House restaurant owner, Ray Russenberger.

As Mark Robinson and Helen Hudson look through their menu, they say what is on Congress’s menu may leave a bad taste in their mouth.

They hope the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill doesn’t pass this month.

Mark said it doesn’t care about taking care of American’s health or giving access to affordable healthcare.

“We need to get rid of a corporate-owned Congress if we are ever going to see any public interest legislation introduced,” he said.

Helen said the Affordable Care Act has been a benefit for them and it will be distressing if it is replaced.

“I’m still working and I’m afraid I’ll be seeing half of my income go to paying our health insurance premiums. One year I had to have cataract surgery and my out of pocket expenses were very low,” Hudson said.

Business owners feel differently about the Affordable Care Act.

“We had to cut their hours back just to afford to keep the business going. We have a small business, but we have more than 50 full-time employees so we fall under the Obama Care Act,” Russenberger said.

Meanwhile, one group in Escambia County remains hopeful that Congress passes the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill.

Escambia County Republican Committeeman Jeremy Evans supports replacing the Affordable Care Act. He calls it wasteful spending.

“I believe that you will see the Affordable Care Act be replaced, how quickly and what manner remains to be seen. I’m hopeful that the attempt this week will pass and get signed by the president and start moving the direction to replace the Affordable Care Act,” Evans explained.

Many other residents we spoke with say they are leaving the decision up to Congress. In hopes that they make the right decision.

Mission of Mercy: Free, two-day dental clinic set for this week in Cedar Rapids

Sep 25, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Print View

A two-day community dental clinic will provide free care to low-income Eastern Iowans this Friday and Saturday.

The Iowa Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy will be back in Cedar Rapids at the U.S. Cellular Center. Doors open at 6 a.m. and patients will be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

The dental clinic will provide free extractions, fillings, dental cleanings and removable tooth replacements, organizers said. Volunteer dentists will not be able to provide full dentures, crowns, root canals or implants.

“It’s very labor intensive, but there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from helping those in our community,” said Dr. Karen Besler, who serves on this year’s planning committee and is the owner of Dental Associates of Cedar Rapids. “They are able to get their most urgent, high-priority needs addressed.”

The Iowa Dental Foundation — the not-for-profit arm of the Iowa Dental Association — works each year to raise $300,000 in in-kind and financial donations to put on the event. Now in its 10th year, Mission of Mercy brings in 100 portable dental chairs and 1,000 volunteers — nearly half of which are dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants or dental students at the University of Iowa.

The dental clinic takes place in a different Iowa city each year, organizers noted, and the average patient will travel between one and two hours to receive services. In the event’s 10-year history, the Iowa Dental Association has provided $8.5 million worth of free dental care to about 13,000 low-income Iowans.

“There are so many people that do not have dental insurance in the state of Iowa,” said Kathy Salisbury, Iowa Dental Foundation program manager. “And even if they do, sometimes they can’t afford the co-pays involved.”

Iowa was one of the few states in the country to offer dental services to the Medicaid expansion population through the Dental Wellness Program, but Salisbury said it’s still difficult for low-income adults to find and afford dental care.

“They’ll let their teeth go and end up in the emergency room, which is hugely expensive and nothing can be done for them,” she said. “You’ll be given antibiotics and pain medicine and then referred to a dentist but they generally don’t go.

“It’s quite a problem in our state and in the U.S.”

In Eastern Iowa, there is a higher rate of oral health disease hospitalizations than the state at large, according to a 2015 Linn County Public Health report — 16 per 100,000 people in Linn County compared with 10 per 100,000 people in the state.

A healthy mouth and teeth can affect overall health as well. Studies have shown people who don’t have good oral health have higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, and a recent study even found a link between poor dental health and dementia.

What’s more, missing a front tooth can negatively impact someone’s chances of finding a job, Salisbury said — he or she might not have the confidence to apply or the employer may have hiring reservations.

“We want to help them get back on their feet and feel good about themselves,” she said.

When the event was held in Cedar Rapids in 2010, nearly 1,500 people came, she added, including one man who got in line almost 24 hours before doors opened. Salisbury wanted to find out why he was there that early.

“He wouldn’t look at me,” she recalled. “But he said, ‘I’m here because my grandson is frightened of me when I laugh or smile’” because he had no front teeth.

The man was fitted for a removable tooth replacement and afterward he was so happy and excited, she said.

“People come who are in such terrible pain and have been in quite some time, and when they leave, it’s gone,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8331; chelsea.keenan@thegazette.com

Like what you’re reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:


Subscribe to our email newsletters