Avishai Sadan, dean of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, made the official announcement Oct. 13 to a crowd of faculty, staff and alumni celebrating the clinic’s 30th anniversary at an elegant reception in downtown Los Angeles.
“This to me is an amazing yet humbling gift to accept,” Sadan said to Mulligan and Clark. “You believe in what we do, and it shows by the care you provide each day, the teaching you expertly cultivate and the financial investment you’ve made in this school.”
The gift provides the clinic with an endowment, the annual interest of which will continue to fund the operation for years to come. The clinic will also bear a new name — the Dr. Roseann Mulligan Special Patients Clinic — in tribute to Mulligan, whose vision and leadership not only helped start the program, which is one of the first school-based dental clinics for patients with special needs, but also has kept it running for three decades.
I’ve always been interested in caring for the oral health needs of those patients who couldn’t get treatment elsewhere.
“I’ve always been interested in caring for the oral health needs of those patients who couldn’t get treatment elsewhere,” said Mulligan, the school’s associate dean of community health programs and hospital affairs. She also holds a joint appointment at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.
“I believe these patients deserve the very best oral health care that we can provide,” she said. “They often have so many other conditions going on that can be impacted by poor oral health.”
Treating the vulnerable
It was with this in mind that Mulligan and her husband, Professor Glenn Clark, decided to make a large gift that could make a substantial impact on the clinic’s permanence at the Ostrow School.
“I can’t think of a more vulnerable and less-cared for population than an adult with special needs,” Clark said. “If you have major health issues or you’re cognitively impaired or have some developmental disability, no one will treat you. So we couldn’t think of any other place in the school that is more deserving.”
Clark and Mulligan approached Sadan and Chief Development Officer Calen Ouellette with an idea to gift the Special Patients Clinic.
“What we wanted most,” Clark said, “was for the patients treated by that clinic to get continuous care — this year, next year, 10 years, 15 years down the road, if possible.”
Sadan and Ouellette countered with an idea to rebrand the clinic with Mulligan’s name.
“It was only natural that Dr. Mulligan’s name be synonymous with Ostrow’s Special Patients Clinic,” Ouellette said, pointing out that it’s only under her constant leadership that the clinic has managed to thrive all these years.
A required rotation
In fact, since its beginnings, it’s estimated that the clinic has provided dental care treatment to more than 14,000 special-needs patients, including the frail elderly as well as those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, neuromuscular disease and HIV-positive patients since the earliest days of the epidemic.
The clinic has also become a required rotation for DDS students, who must spend one week in the clinic, which Mulligan has helped future dental practitioners grow confident, providing care to this underserved population.
“Frequently, the students will volunteer to spend additional time in the clinic because they like working with the patients,” said Mulligan, who has worked at the dental school since 1982. “These patients are extremely appreciative of our caring for them, and the students really respond to that.”
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