The Daily Iowan

UI joins program giving free dental care to veterans

For veterans like Kenny Williams, a program offered by the UI College of Dentistry gives them access to dental care at no cost.

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UI joins program giving free dental care to veterans

U.S. Army veteran Kenny Williams undergoes a dental procedure from fourth-year student Madeline Stead at the UI College of Dentistry on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Thanks to a program called Veterans for Everyone, servicemen and women like Williams have gained access to dental care at no cost.

U.S. Army veteran Kenny Williams undergoes a dental procedure from fourth-year student Madeline Stead at the UI College of Dentistry on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Thanks to a program called Veterans for Everyone, servicemen and women like Williams have gained access to dental care at no cost.

Charles Peckman

U.S. Army veteran Kenny Williams undergoes a dental procedure from fourth-year student Madeline Stead at the UI College of Dentistry on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Thanks to a program called Veterans for Everyone, servicemen and women like Williams have gained access to dental care at no cost.

Charles Peckman

Charles Peckman

U.S. Army veteran Kenny Williams undergoes a dental procedure from fourth-year student Madeline Stead at the UI College of Dentistry on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Thanks to a program called Veterans for Everyone, servicemen and women like Williams have gained access to dental care at no cost.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

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“There were some crocodiles swimming in the Mississippi, so I had to get them out of the way to get here.”

Kenny Williams, a U.S. Army veteran, travels from Rock Island to Iowa City for his dental appointments. Although he jokes about overcoming physical obstacles to make it to the University of Iowa College of Dentistry by 9 a.m., his day is in full swing before most Iowa Citians are awake.

Williams walks from his Rock Island home to the Davenport Burlington Trailways station to catch the 1:55 a.m. bus to Iowa City. He then waits in the lobby of the VA hospital until the dental school opens.

RELATED: Dental school to offer free care for some

Williams, along with other low-income combat veterans, are part of a program called Everyone for Veterans, which provides free or reduced-cost dental care for servicemen and -women.

Ann Synan, a patient-relations specialist at the dental school, said the UI has been a part of Everyone for Veterans for about a year and has treated six veterans during the program’s short tenure in Iowa City.

“Because we are a participating provider in the program, the veterans who wish to apply must meet two criteria: that they are low-income and have served in combat,” she said. “When you have patients like Kenny, they are very disciplined. I’ve found that veterans are very disciplined in everything they do, including dental care.”

Charles Peckman
U.S. Army veteran Kenny Williams undergoes a dental procedure from fourth-year student Madeline Stead at the UI College of Dentistry on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Thanks to a program called Veterans for Everyone, servicemen and women like Williams have gained access to dental care at no cost.

Synan said she was taken aback by Williams’ story when they first met, and she later learned he was homeless at the time of their first meeting.

Throughout the program’s time at the UI, Synan said, she has been moved by the rapport built between dentistry students and their patients.

As Williams slowly reclined in his dental chair to prepare for a procedure, he said he is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to receive free dental care.

“The care and compassion shown to veterans here is amazing,” he said. “They’re offering service to me, and the staff here have helped me create a treatment plan.”

Although he travels for his appointments, Williams said, it is worth the time it takes.

“For me, the journey is a walk in the park,” he said.

RELATED: Dental care is on the go

Williams served as an infantryman in the jungles of Panama during the 1989 U.S. invasion.

The fourth-year dental student who has been treating Williams, Madeline Stead, said Everyone for Veterans has given her the opportunity to perfect her skills.

“I think it’s a really nice opportunity to give back, and I’ve enjoyed working with Kenny,” she said.

When you graduate and practice in the Iowa City area, I’m going to follow you,” Williams responded. “I’ll come hobbling in with my cane when I’m an old man, and you’ll fix me up.”

As I buttoned up my winter coat to leave, I shook Williams’ hand to thank him for his service. He grabbed my hand tightly and looked me in the eyes. His gaze was intense yet incredibly gentle.

“We get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of life we forget to sit down and care about people,” Williams said.

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About the Contributor
Charles Peckman, News Reporter

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charlespeckman

Currently, Charles is a digital producer and news reporter. Previously, he has served...

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