The Surgeon General's report (Part 3)

By the CDHP team

The report issued 14 years ago by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher was a wakeup call about an overlooked area of health: dental health. Dr. Caswell Evans (pictured at right) served as  executive editor for the Surgeon General's report, and he is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP). We recently interviewed him to gain his perspective on the report’s impact, and this is the final portion (Part III) of that interview. You can also access Part I and Part II of the interview of Dr. Evans.

Q: We’ve talked about inequities facing people of color. Did you experience prejudice back when you were a dental student?

I was the only African American dental student at Columbia University during the time I was there and a then a year before and after. There were two black faculty in the department of oral surgery. There was nothing I noticed that was overt. But covert, yes, there were things I didn’t know. No one told me there were dental fraternities, for example, and that faculty would come by and be chummy with students. I didn’t really find that out until my third or fourth year. But I thought to myself, I’ve done well enough to not pay any mind to this. I was the president of my class.

Q: What is your message to dental professionals today?

I come from the perspective that if you are a health professional, you have an obligation to all of society. No one expects a professional to devote their entire career to service, though some do. Within that obligation is doing something for people who otherwise would have no access to your services. If everyone did a little something, as opposed to a whole lot of nothing, we’d be able to ameliorate a great deal of suffering.  

There are some wonderful volunteer activities that have developed in recent years, such as the Mission of Mercy projects. They provide service and are better than nothing. But a volunteer effort is not the same as a concerted, dedicated ongoing effort to provide care with the assurance of continuity.

We need to see the world as being more broadly defined than our patients of record.

Dentists say Medicaid fees are too low. But does everyone have to make a “profit” on everything they do? There may be times when you may not break even. So I ask dentists, can you take one Medicaid patient a month? Can you take on two? That must be manageable. We need to see the world as being more broadly defined than our patients of record. It comes with the privilege of being a health professional.

(Note: The opinions expressed by guest bloggers or interview subjects do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CDHP.)

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52% }
of new military recruits couldn't be deployed because of dental problems.
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