For a Good Cause

Amaus Dental Services 

Photography by Ana Gil-Taylor

For the past three years, Amaus Dental Services has provided dental care for the poor and uninsured of Central New York, people who might not otherwise have an opportunity for dental care. This month, we sat down with their administrative director, Kathleen Komar, to talk about the organization’s recent expansion and model of sustainable services.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

SWM: Since its founding by Dr. David Dasher, Amaus Dental Services has grown by leaps and bounds. Talk about that evolution.
Kathleen: We’re just amazed at what has happened in three years, and the number of patients [we’ve helped]. There’s no sensation that compares with helping other people. There just isn’t.

SWM: Who does Amaus Dental Services primarily serve?
Kathleen: You’ll find out that the Affordable Care Act does not touch dental. And New York state does not have any safety net for dental, vision or a lot of hearing for adults. So this is the path that they have, if they have an infection. Typically, they’ve neglected their dental care for a decade or more. So when they come to us, they have urgent needs.

SWM: Talk about Amaus Dental Services’ stress on sustainable services.
Kathleen: Our work continues to have a positive impact long after Amaus Dental Services has finished with a patient. There are all these different areas in how that fits.
If we have a patient who comes in for a cleaning, we will follow up with that patient. So after the initial cleaning, three months later, we will call them, and we’ll get them booked for their six-month follow-up.
Another way the sustainable service continues to give back is through our volunteers. Another thing that’s really near and dear to our hearts is that we have become a training facility. We train [students] to be dental assistants, and they learn more here than they could have learned anywhere else.
Once they get their degree and they set up their practice somewhere, we hope they’ll remember their volunteer experience here. So whatever community they’re in, they will in turn give back and they will help that population as well.

SWM: Did you ever imagine that it would turn into a training facility?
Kathleen: [We] never did. Dr. Matthew Hall — he is in charge of the residents at St. Joseph’s Hospital — he sends his residents down here, and they rotate through.
Not only are the residents getting a full education here on care from the head up; they will be exposed to a segment of the population they will need to know how to administer to.

SWM: Talk about how Amaus Dental is funded.
Kathleen: We have approached national foundations, and they have given us quite a bit of money to continue what we do here. We do a lot of grant writing, and to date, we’ve never had someone turn us away when applying for a grant.
And now we have another stream of revenue, which is so exciting. There are now these benefits that are in our honor. We’ve received so many awards. What’s going on here is definitely being acknowledged. It’s amazing how people are just making this as vibrant as it can be.
We were able to raise $150,000 in cash for this expansion. [In] total, it was about $229,000 with the equipment that was donated, and that’s what it took to have what we have today.

SWM: How do you get dentists involved?
Kathleen: Word of mouth. It was a calling for some of the dentists. They retired and they want to continue that patient interaction. And when you tell them, “You don’t have to go to Haiti to really make a difference,” they realize, “You’re right.” The poverty in Syracuse is so high that we’re really only scratching the surface of the need here. SWM

To get involved or donate to Amaus Dental Services, visit amausdentalservices.com.

Follow Officially-Unofficial for a video on Amaus Dental Services’ recent transformation! 

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