As an experienced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, I have the privilege of being involved with the California CareForce (CCF) Clinic (), which began through my affiliation with the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (CALAOMS) . I have always felt strongly that it is important to help those in need and organizations like CCF make getting involved easy.
We are incredibly fortunate as Americans to live in a wealthy country where we have much more than others; however, it’s important to always keep in mind that there are still many people here at home whose needs are left unmet. In my practice, we often care for patients with limited resources from local hospitals and clinics, and that is why I feel such a close connection to CCF’s mission. They set up clinics in areas where people have the greatest unmet needs and deliver healthcare services to patients who would otherwise not have access.
The CCF Clinic, hosted at the Riverside County Fairgrounds from April 3-6, provided a unique platform for Remote Area Medical USA (RAMUSA), California CareForce, Goldenvoice, the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (CALAOMS), the Flying Doctors, and a number of other professional and non-professional volunteers to offer much-needed services to more than 2,000 patients. While over $1 million in services were provided by hundreds of highly skilled medical professionals, they were complimentary for patients at the Clinic thanks to the support of CCF, whose mission is to provide free health, dental and vision care to Californians.
This particular experience in the Coachella Valley was perhaps one of my most memorable, as I left my clinic on Friday, one of my busiest workdays, I flew from Oakland to Ontario, California, rented a car, and drove two hours to Indio – a remote location in the middle of the desert. When I arrived at the clinic early the next morning (6 a.m.), patients were already waiting in line for services, as they had either camped out overnight or arrived early that morning to be treated.
As I scanned the crowd, I could see that these patients came from all walks of life and I found it incredibly rewarding to work with them. They weren’t homeless or drug addicts or even terribly underprivileged – they were just like anyone else. They were simply there because they could not afford a new pair of glasses or have their teeth filled or pulled on their own. These patients quietly suffer, hoping someone will help them get what they need to better themselves and improve their life. Looking at them made it impossible not to take a step back and realize that we are just one major illness or catastrophic event away from being in their exact position!
My primary role at the clinic was to extract teeth, so I spent a majority of my time there pulling the teeth of patients suffering from pain and infections. After a full day of pulling teeth, I drove back to the airport, flew back to Oakland and drove back home, arriving around 10:30pm that day. As I settled in to my warm bed at home that night, visions of the many different faces I saw that day made me realize that we are so fortunate to be in the position we’re in. Seeing how a procedure as simple as extracting a tooth truly made a difference in someone’s life was incredibly rewarding, and I would go through the same process all over again to get the opportunity to help someone in need.
About Leonard M. Tyko II, DDS, MD, FACS (www.healthgrades.com)
Dr. Tyko joined Santa Rosa & Rohnert Park Oral Surgery in 2000 when he returned to his home state from Texas. Dr. Tyko is an active participant in Sonoma County’s medical and dental communities, regularly lecturing at Santa Rosa Junior College, hosting numerous seminars for local dentists, and serving on Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s trauma team.
He is Chief of Dentistry at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, a director on the Board of the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and previously serving as Editor of the state association’s newsletter, member of several association committees, and President of the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Health Foundation. His clinical area of interest is bone grafting.