By Adeishe Bagaloo
Uniondale High School
and Christian Miller
St. John the Baptist High School
For dentist Rhona Sherwin, nothing matters more than helping children.
“That’s our main goal, to make sure the children are well taken care of,” Sherwin said.
A Stony Brook University alumna, Sherwin is a clinical professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Dentistry, in the department of orthodontics and pediatric dentistry. As the director of pediatric outreach, Sherwin organizes dental care events throughout Long Island.
“Whatever the child needs, we’ll take care of it,” Sherwin said. “We don’t turn anybody away that cannot afford it.”
Among those events is Give Kids a Smile, a free dental care clinic offered by appointment for any child up to age 17. The clinic, scheduled for August 28, is sponsored by the American Dental Association. The five-hour program is expected to treat approximately 400 kids, up from 300 last year.
“We have faculty that are more than willing to volunteer,” Sherwin said. “We pair them with dental students, who work in teams.”
Xiomara Aguirre visited the dental care center Thursday with her 2-year-old daughter, Casey Flores.
“A friend recommended it to me. She’s been with them for 10 years,” Aguirre said. “It’s pretty cool. I love it.”
Sherwin’s team of dentists takes their show on the road in the dental school’s mobile office, a modified 40-foot van with room for treating three patients at a time. The van, purchased through a New York HEAL grant, enables the team to treat patients who lack transportation.
“We’ve been to homeless shelters, elementary schools, and crisis family centers,” Sherwin said.
Treating homeless patients is especially rewarding, Sherwin said.
“I think they’re very appreciative because their living situation is so difficult,” she said. “This is one other thing that they don’t have to think about, taking care of their child’s oral health.”
Sherwin and her team advertise their programs at churches, libraries, hospitals and other community partners.
“I’m very proud of where we started,” Sherwin said, “and we’re still building.”