Ludella Robinson (pictured, left) had avoided dental care for more years than she could remember, not out of fear like some people, but because without a job she simply did not have the resources to get care.
This is a common problem for many people in the city of Milwaukee, For nearly ten years, Columbia St. Mary's (CSM) has provided an answer to this need through our award-winning St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic, formerly the Madre Angela Dental Clinic, Milwaukee's "Dental Emergency Room for the Poor."
Poor oral health is the root of a host of life-threatening and expensive medical problems that contribute to an overloaded healthcare system. Many uninsured, impoverished people wait until their need for pain relief is critical. They then resort to seeking care at hospital emergency departments that are not equipped to provide dental services.
Supported by CSM Foundation, Seton Dental Clinic's goal is to ensure access to its broad range of oral health care - including urgent care, restorative care, dental appliances, hygiene services and a school-based oral health program - building its practice to more than 11,000 patient encounters each year.
Ludella first learned about the dental clinic from CSM employees, where she is being treated for breast cancer. "I knew I had a lump in my breast, but I didn't have it examined until I got a free voucher for a mammogram at CSM from an outreach nurse," she explains. Improving Ludella's oral health was extremely important because any source of infection can be a complication if cancer treatment causes the immune system to be temporarily compromised.
This referral within our Community Benefits programming is a true example of the care coordination that CSM strives to provide all people, regardless of their ability to pay.
By the time of her initial visit to MADC, Ludella was in pain and needed significant work, including several fillings and the extraction of six teeth.
She jokes, "I got worried that I'd be without my hair, because of the chemo, and without teeth. How would that look? But they have taken molds for replacement teeth, thank goodness, and I get to have a whole new mouth!"
Meeting this growing community need is possible only through the philanthropic support of those who share CSM's concern for people who lack access to the basic dental care most of us take for granted.
In the coming year, with grants from the Daughters of Charity and the State of Wisconsin, CSM and the Foundation will take on a move and expansion of the dental clinic that will double the number of patients it can serve.
“May 28, 1994. 8,500 gallons of gasoline. A split second when something goes wrong. A tanker rolls over and bursts into flames on a slow turn on Milwaukee's Highway 45.
Forty-two-year-old driver Bill Ester (pictured, second from left with Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety Board members) can recall the accident in amazing detail. "My initial thought was 'This is how it ends.' But survival is a very strong instinct. I jumped out a window and, thank goodness, 'stop, drop and roll' had been beat into me as a kid."
Paramedics transported Bill to Columbia St. Mary's (CSM) Regional Burn Center where he began the long process of recovering from traumatic third-degree burns that covered more than 60 percent of his body.
CSM's Regional Burn Center will recognize its 50th anniversary in October 2009. This year also marks the 21st anniversary of the Burn Center Golf Invitational (BCGI) - an event hosted by the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety (WAFS) - which has raised more than $1.6 million for the center.
WAFS' commitment supports care for 200-250 burn patients annually who need care for the treatment of injuies caused by fires, chemical burns, electrical burns, severe sunburn and frostbite, as well as skin disorders that cause severeskin damage or loss.
At the CSM Regional Burn Center, a specially trained team of physicians, nurses, therapists and other caregivers assures the highest quality care and best outcomes. They're fully committed to treating not only the physical injuries, but also the psychological wounds that often accompany them.
After Bill's first six months of outpatient therapy, the stress, pain and depression had taken a toll. "Just at that moment, the staff called and asked if I would participate in a new burn survivor support group. After just one meeting, I found the strength to keep fighting. I'm proud to be a source of support to the new victims. They look at me, and they see that they, too, can again have quality of life."
According to Thomas Schneider, MD, the Medical Director of the Regional Burn Center, "We are extremely fortunate to have this level of care - this completeness of care - right here in Milwaukee. The CSM Regional Burn Center serves as a model, regionally and nationally."
Today, the "completeness of care" that Dr. Schneider referenced has helped Bill fulfill his goals of again enjoying two passions: mountain climbing and playing the piano. "The relationships I've developed at the Burn Center are life-long. Those people are my saviors. My angels."
In recent years, the BCGI has funded Cardiac Telemetry Packs, Radiant Heat Panels and educational burn safety outreach programs. Funds have also been dedicated to building and upgrading the Regional Burn Center in the new CSM Hospital Milwaukee.
It's a stunning diagnosis no matter who you are or where your life has taken you.
For Cedarburg's Linda Short (pictured, middle, with oncology caregivers), a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, it was especially surprising. "I thought I was doing everything right," she said. "I teach water aerobics, eat right and have never smoked a cigarette in my life. It was a real eye-opener. The genetic component is strong."
Following a lumpectomy and 35 days of radiation treatments at the Columbia St. Mary's (CSM) Ozaukee Radiation Oncology Center, Linda says she's grateful for the care she received. "It is a relaxed, home-like atmosphere. If patients have anxiety upon entering the center, they are immediately put at east by the professionalism and demeanor of the staff. They are extremely compassionate and made all the difference in the world during my treatment."
Columbia St. Mary's Foundation - with special help from two groups of donors - has funded significant improvements to the medical oncology and radiation oncology areas at the Ozaukee campus. With improving the patient experience in mind, friends and family of Richard "Dick" Gebhardt designated memorial gifts towards the renovation of both areas, and with the leadership of co-chairs Carl Olson, MD, and Elizabeth and Tom Long, the 2008 CSM Foundation Galaraised more than $300,000 for cancer services.
A reception area upgrade, provate waiting area for gowned patients, heated treatment chairs, educational resources, calming artwork and plant life all ease the stress of cancer treatments for patients and their loved ones.
Virtual skylights, called SkyCeilingsTM, bring the relaxing qualities of the sky to the enclosed interior, and SkyWindowsTM create peaceful portals to scenes of virtual wilderness.
Foundation funding also supports integrative therapies, such as art and music thereapy, and visits from our wonderful therapy dogs - further confirming our commitment to healing the body, mind and spirit.
"I've seen first-hand the impact that these improvements to the treatment areas have had on the patient experience," explains John Burfeind, MD, Medical Director fo the Ozaukee Cancer Centers. "The careful creation of such a healing environment demonstrates Columbia St. Mary's commitment to all-encompassing health care."
Linda credits her positive attitude for contributing to her successful outcomes. "I could have sat there and said, 'Why me?.' but I'm not one for doom and gloom."
One year later, two follow-up mammograms have found no sign of cancer for Linda.
years, Gladys Rogers was active in Columbia St. Mary’s community-based
chronic disease clinics, helping spread life-saving information to her
fellow congregants at the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church. But when she
was downsized from her job in 2008, the longtime instructor became a
“After my insurance lapsed, I wanted to be prideful and do everything out of pocket, but I soon realized money won’t cover everything,” says the 62-year-old. “And, of course, my chronic hypertension wasn’t going away.”
Having spent her whole life surrounded by the world of health care – from dealing with her own personal health issues as a child to witnessing her parents’ struggles later in life – Gladys knew the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But as other stresses in her life became more pronounced, her health took a back seat.
“My numbers were all out of whack,” she says.
So, Gladys sought out help at the very clinic she had long worked as an educator. Walking in the front door and being greeted with familiar faces immediately put Gladys at ease. There she met with a nurse who ran some tests, talked with her about the issues she faced, how to get them under control and suggested some medication along with lifestyle changes. Gladys still makes regular trips to the clinic once a month and her blood pressure numbers are now “near miraculous,” she says.
“They’re so well-controlled that when we did the blood pressure screenings at church I thought something was wrong. No way my numbers could be this good,” Gladys says, adding, “There are no words to express how important these clinics are in the community.”
Since the new St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic opened its doors in the fall of 2009, they’ve brought smiles to the faces of thousands of low-income families each year. But the walls, large expanses of drab beige, were far less cheerful. Enter Arts @ Large and the Escuela Vieau School.
Seton Dental offers dental care to people in poverty and is the only provider of urgent dental care in Milwaukee for people without insurance. In addition to urgent care, which makes up roughly a third of its patient base, Seton Dental does restorative care, dental appliances, dental hygiene services and runs the largest school-based oral health program in Wisconsin.
When the clinic was first being built, they didn’t have any money in their budget for art – they were more focused on getting the clinic up and running and figured they’d decorate eventually. But as the number of children they treated each year continued to grow, Elizabeth Nelson, manager of the clinic, began to seek out solutions.
She contacted the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and was put in touch with Arts @ Large, a local non-profit that connects Milwaukee Public Schools with area artists to provide arts education to students. When the nearby Escuela Vieau School was mentioned, Nelson knew it was the perfect fit.
“It is really important for us to be connected to our community,” says Nelson. “Now, we not only have the art but the story of how it came to be here.”
In late January, about 60 first-, second- and third-graders from Escuela Vieau toured the Seton Dental Clinic, met the staff and drew inspiration. Back at school, each child was instructed to draw a picture of something they’d like to see if they were at the dentist office – five drawings were chosen to be made into ceramic mosaics. Twice a week for the next month, the children, with the guidance of Leann Wooten, an award-winning Milwaukee artist, worked tirelessly on their mosaics. They used everything from perfect, hand-cut tiles and angular shards of smashed plates to images cut from magazines and swatches of fabric.
On March 19, the children presented their finished works to Seton Dental. More than just aesthetically pleasing, these colorful mosaics serve a functional purpose as well. Nelson says since they were designed and created by kids, the hope is they’ll help make other kids who visit the clinic more comfortable and provide a distraction from the fears they might be having about getting their teeth worked on.
The bright and whimsical mosaics include a bumblebee designed by first-grader Daniela; a pot of flowers by second-grader Veronica; a mountainscape by second-grader Oslard; and a hanging monkey by third-grader William. All four will be hung in exam rooms at the clinic while the final mosaic of a butterfly was presented back to Escuela Vieau as a token of appreciation.
Though this project only just wrapped up, Nelson is eager for more. “It was a great experience,” she says, “and we have plenty of wall space.”