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ECU faculty, students bring smiles at local event

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Reclined in a portable dental chair, Jerry Joyner readied himself to have a tooth looked at Wednesday by an East Carolina University dental faculty member.

He was pretty sure he would need the tooth pulled. He also planned to get his eyes checked and maybe get some glasses. It might not sound like a good way to spend a morning, but Joyner was glad to be there.

"This is a chance to get everything done with one stop," said Joyner, 52. A divorced father of three, Joyner has been living at the Greenville Community Shelter since November.

The event was the second annual Project Homeless Connect, a city-county effort to provide services and information to local people in need.

Faculty members from the ECU School of Dental Medicine, assisted by students, treated 85 people who signed up for dental care. Though faculty and students have volunteered at other free clinics, the event Wednesday was the first time the school has used its own 10 portable dental chairs at a clinic.

Dr. Frank Serio, interim vice dean of the school, said they were seeing "some people with a lot of nice dentistry in their mouth but just down on their luck." Many patients needed teeth extracted, he said. Faculty members also screened people for oral cancers and provided basic dental supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.

Student Kyle Duncan of Bakersville has worked at a couple of other free clinics and said they provide valuable experience.

"In the classroom, everything is black and white, words on paper," Duncan said. "But you get out here and see how people need help. They aren't just case studies."

Student Alex Ho of Charlotte, who was assisting with Joyner's care, agreed.

"This is making us a lot more confident for when we do see patients at the dental school clinic," he said.

The 52 ECU dental students worked in morning and afternoon shifts.

Students from the ECU College of Nursing also provided blood pressure and glucose screening and counseling along with other services.

"This is part of our community health curriculum, so it's very applicable to our clinical course description," said Kimberly Hardy, a family nurse practitioner and clinical instructor at the college.

Layden Odum of Greenville got her blood pressure checked by an ECU nursing student. "It's very well organized," Odum said of the event. "All the booths have a variety of things to help you and avenues you sometimes don't get so easily."

Paulette White, event organizer and project manager of the 10-year plan to end homelessness in Greenville and Pitt County, said the participation by ECU students is welcome.

"It's an opportunity for students to learn how to give to their community in a meaningful way," White said. "We're incredibly fortunate ECU is willing to work with us like that."

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