Dentists provide free dental care for Holocaust survivors

Dentists are providing free dental care for economically vulnerable Holocaust survivors in the Valley through a program that launched locally this past November.

The Alpha Omega-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program started in nine cities in 2015 and Phoenix is the 18th North American city to participate.

The program stemmed from a December 2013 call to action by then-Vice President Joe Biden, who announced a White House initiative to promote the development of public-private partnerships to support the needs of Holocaust survivors living in the United States.

Program referrals can be obtained through the network of Jewish Family and Children’s Services agencies or other identified partner organizations – the local agency is Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS). To apply, survivors should contact Kathy Rood, JFCS Jewish social services manager, to see if they are eligible. If survivors have already been approved for reparations through the Claims Conference, then they already qualify financially, Rood said.

In addition to financial need, three critical factors are used to prioritize patients for participation: elimination of pain and disease, restoration of function and lack of dental coverage.

Once the application process is complete, Rood sends the information to Dr. Irwin Feinberg, program coordinator in the Greater Phoenix area, who matches them with a dentist, based on the services needed.

Jack Dillenberg, dean of the AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, in conjunction with Alpha Omega, was instrumental in bringing the program to Phoenix, Feinberg said.

The participating dentists in the Greater Phoenix area are Sharon Bader, Shalom Fialkoff, Michael Gibbons, Jeffrey Kleiman, Michael Lebowitz, Josh Mondlick and Betty Schindler. The dental school has also agreed to be a provider with this program as needed, said Feinberg, who is an associate professor at the university.

The dentists provide their services pro bono. These services include a range of dental services, from basic dental work and comprehensive oral evaluations to root canals and dentures.

Since the program’s inception, 500 patients have been treated with an estimated total value of care valued at more than $500,000, said Bernice Edelstein, program manager of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity (AO), which is based in Maryland. AO is an international dental fraternity based on Jewish values, with approximately 20 active alumni members in the Greater Phoenix area, as well as student members at AT Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health and the College of Dental Medicine Arizona at Midwestern University. Henry Schein, Inc. is the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners.

To apply for the program, contact Kathy Rood, 602-452-4627. To learn more about Alpha Omega, visit ao.org.

This article first appeared in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

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