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Ostrow programs serve women veterans in need

Army veteran Carrie Simpson discusses her dental care with Ostrow School student Sean Vreeburg. (Photo/Beth Dunham)

Faculty, staff, and students in the Community Oral Health Programs at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC provided free dental services for female veterans on July 20.

Targeted toward homeless female veterans and other women veterans in need, the outreach was part of the second annual Female Veterans Stand Down organized by U.S. Vets Inc. Along with dental care, veterans received medical and vision screenings, legal and financial advice, housing help, benefit assistance, employment and job interview counseling, wellness and beauty services, free food, live entertainment and more.

Ostrow School volunteers staffed two USC Mobile Clinic vehicles to provide dental and oral cancer screenings. Veterans also received oral hygiene instruction, free dental supplies and referrals to low- or no-cost clinics near their homes, including Ostrow School clinics.

Unemployed Army veteran Carrie Simpson, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from Houston, received a dental screening and a referral to the USC Union Rescue Mission Dental Clinic for additional dental care. She said the care and assistance was part of a “wonderful welcome” to Los Angeles.

“I really appreciate everyone who’s serving and volunteering their time,” Simpson said. “They’re good and patient with everybody.”

She said she hopes fixing her teeth and improving her dental health will help her find a job, noting that “the first thing you show someone is your smile.”

Niel Nathason, section chair of Community Dentistry, described the scope of need that veterans face, noting a high percentage of veterans are unemployed, and Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of homeless veterans, more than 10 percent of which are women.

“We should never hear the words ‘homeless’ and ‘veteran’ together,” he said. “When we help veterans, it’s a win-win for our community, for the patients and for our students.”

Kathy Elizondo, director of the USC Union Rescue Mission Dental Clinic, said the services offered by the Ostrow School’s community outreach efforts are important for veterans, especially since so many have limited access to affordable dental care. It’s also important for the dental students who serve veterans and other populations in need, she added.

“Students who work with this population realize the need and will hopefully work more with them in the future,” Elizondo said. “It’s an eye-opener.”

Roseann Mulligan, associate dean of Community Oral Health Programs and Hospital Affairs and chair of the Division of Dental Public Health & Pediatric Dentistry, said dental care is a critical need for veterans and plays an important role in overall health.

“The number one need for our homeless female veterans is dental care. Once oral health is obtained, significant improvement in not only oral health but also general health and self-esteem accrues,” she said. “Clearly, dental health is an important contributor to the rehabilitation needs for our female vets.”

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