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AZ Dentist for Homeless Gets National Award

August 23, 2010

PHOENIX, Ariz. - An Arizona dentist who gave up his private practice to treat the homeless has received a national award for creating a free dental clinic. The CASS (Central Arizona Shelter Services) clinic serves more than 6,000 homeless patients largely through donations and volunteers. Comments from Kris Volcheck, director of the CASS Dental Clinic for the Homeless.

Kris Volcheck quit his Globe dental practice after ten years and became a volunteer at Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) , the state's largest homeless shelter. There he encountered people with the worst teeth he had ever seen.

Today, thousands of Arizona's homeless are receiving high-quality dental care at his CASS Dental Clinic for the Homeless. Starting with two chairs in a trailer, Volcheck now oversees 500 volunteer dentists and hygienists in a modern $1.5 million building, largely equipped through donations.

"We set this up as a showroom, where the dentists could come in and compare the products of the major manufacturers. So, the three major manufacturers came in and gave their very best, their state of the art equipment."

Volcheck now provides free comprehensive dental care to more than 6,000 homeless Arizonans. He was honored this month with a national community health award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The CASS clinic also provides training and mentoring to local dental students. Volcheck says students working at the shelter see the worst of the worst.

"You can imagine the educational experience they get. If you're working on the homeless for a full year and then you step out and go to Tempe and Scottsdale, treating those patients is a piece of cake - that's easy to do."

Volcheck says he would be bored if he had to go back to private practice, because something interesting and exciting is always going on when you work at a homeless shelter.

"We see people who are doing really well, they're as stable as you and I, and they're out there and we've helped them. That's very fulfilling. We have people who are characters and they're fun to be with, they're fun to hang out with and they're entertaining."

Volcheck's latest project is a school-based clinic that provides regular dental care to more than 2,000 children in one of the poorest areas of Phoenix.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ