Go to content

Long-awaited celebration

Southeast Dental Center's June 2 Ribbon Cutting
Community leaders involved with the Southeast Dental Center celebrate its June 2 opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony. For a complete list of individuals pictured, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Opening of Pleasant Grove dental clinic fulfills a dream a decade in the making

So much has happened since Argentry Fisher, site administrator at the Parkland Community Oriented Primary Care Southeast Dallas Health Center, made that impassioned plea to Crystal Charity Ball that winter day in 2009 for funding needed to make a dental clinic at her health center a reality.

Since then, there’s been a marriage and even a baby in Fisher’s personal life. As her son’s first birthday rapidly approached in late June, she even had plans in the works for his first dental visit. Her clinic of choice — the newly opened Southeast Dental Center, located inside the existing Parkland COPC that Fisher oversees in Pleasant Grove, Texas.

“He’s got eight teeth already,” Fisher mused before scheduling the appointment. “We’re going to start him early.”

The premise of taking her son in for this mini-milestone takes on special significance for Fisher. The timing couldn’t have been better — the clinic opened its doors to the public at a June 2 ribbon cutting. It also signified Fisher had come full circle in her hopes for a Pleasant Grove dental clinic — a dream nearly a decade in the making.

An impassioned plea

Southeast Dental Center's June 2 Ribbon Cutting
Artwork accents the clinic's operatories.

It may have been the staggering statistics in Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry’s favor as faculty and supporters presented the idea of a third oral health project to Crystal Charity Ball. If approved, it would mean Pleasant Grove, a South Dallas community in dire need of dental care, would have a clinic to provide oral health services to the uninsured.

After all, it’s hard to ignore the numbers: A clinic could provide treatment for 1,800 children and improve the oral health of 10,000 others.

“This is an underserved community
that we had been trying to find a way to provide
access to dental care for more than a decade.”

— Paul Hoffmann

But it may have been Fisher’s ardent call to action that led to the organization’s decision to fund $500,000 of the $1.4 million needed to add the Community Dental Care clinic to the Pleasant Grove center.

At least, it’s what Robert Bigham, president of the Baylor Oral Health Foundation, remembers most.

“She made an impassioned plea to the charity that was really quite striking,” Bigham says. As he recollects, she made the comment that when the Vickery Meadow clinic was opened it was like a ‘stake in her heart,’ mainly because of how much she knew the Pleasant Grove area needed one, too.

Paul Hoffmann, executive director of Community Dental Care, also remembers that day.

“She was really very passionate when we went to present to Crystal Charity Ball; it made a huge difference,” Hoffmann says. “This is an underserved community that we had been trying to find a way to provide access to dental care for more than a decade.”

A goal realized

Two and a half years later, the day Fisher long anticipated had arrived.

On the morning of June 2, as cameras flashed and a clustering of community leaders applauded, the Southeast Dental Center officially opened. Situated inside the existing health center at 9202 Elam Road, the Community Dental Care facility provides low-cost dental care to the underserved residents of Pleasant Grove.

The clinic is just one component of TAMHSC-BCD’s Southeast Oral Health Project designed to annually provide 16,000 oral health interactions through screening, education and sealants.

While Crystal Charity Ball, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Baylor Oral Health Foundation, and the City of Dallas funded the project, many partners were needed to provide this much-needed center to the Southeast Dallas community — the Dallas Independent School District and Community Dental Care among them. 

“I would like to acknowledge our partnership with Community Dental Care in particular,” says Dr. Daniel Jones, professor and chair of public health sciences, who, along with Community Dental Care’s Hoffman, led the effort for Crystal Charity Ball funding.

“They are a long-time partner without whom we would not have enjoyed the success we have. The Vickery Meadow and Southeast clinics are integral parts of our community-based clinical training program for D4 students.”

The collaboration will continue in December, when Jones and Hoffmann again plan to apply for Crystal Charity Ball funding, this time for a new Community Dental Care clinic in Grand Prairie, Texas.

A continual presence

TAMHSC-BCD will have an ongoing role at the Southeast Dental Center with students, residents and faculty rotating through the clinic to deliver care. What’s more, the college will expand its sealant program to include 600 Pleasant Grove second-graders, starting in the 2011-2012 school year.

Southeast Dental Center's June 2 Ribbon Cutting
The waiting room's purple and blue hues create the clinic's identity within the Pleasant Grove Community Oriented Primary Care facility.

The plan is for the Southeast Dental Center to be self-sustaining within two years, just like its predecessor, the Vickery Meadow clinic, after it opened in 2007.

It’s something Bigham predicts may happen even sooner, solely based on the sheer need in Pleasant Grove.

“From everything I know this was sorely needed in the area,” Bigham says. “It’s a very modern, cutting edge facility. To the college, it will be an excellent area for training of our future dentists.”

For Fisher it means she’ll start to see Pleasant Grove children get the dental care they truly need. And for her son — they’ll be back for his next appointment soon enough.

Photo, top center: (from left to right) Dr. James S. Cole, TAMHSC-BCD dean; Dr. Dan Jones, TAMHSC-BCD professor and public health sciences chair; Dr. Ron Anderson, Parkland president and CEO; Sharon Phillips, Parkland senior vice president, community medicine; Debbie Oats and Carol Spies, Crystal Charity Ball committee members; Earl Johnson, Community Dental Care board member; Paul Hoffmann, Community Dental Care executive director; Argentry Fisher, Parkland health center administrator; and Dr. Martia Leffall, Community Dental Care dental director.