A behind-the-scenes look into naval dentistry
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    Exclamation A behind-the-scenes look into naval dentistry

    A behind-the-scenes look into naval dentistry

    2/4/2009 By Cpl. Aaron Rooks , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

    MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The Osborne Dental Clinic aboard Camp Lejeune provides care to more than 2,500 Marines and sailors each month. This clinic is just one of 9 others located in North Carolina that belong to 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Add the remaining 9 to the equation, and the amount rises to more than 12, 500 patients treated each month.

    The Main Side Dental Clinic, another one of the battalion’s treatment facilities located on base, individually houses 21 dental operatories, two surgical suites and five specialty departments that deal with general dentistry, endodontics, periodontics, prosthetics and oral surgery. This doesn’t include the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program, or the vast amount of dental equipment housed there.

    A lot of time and work goes into keeping these various dental clinics operating smoothly, as anyone could imagine. But the work doesn’t lie with just the dental officers, hygienists, technicians and receptionists.

    Several departments within 2nd Dental Battalion operate behind the scenes to enable the clinics to accomplish their missions. These departments serve a variety of different functions, but find common ground in the fact that without the other, Marines and sailors won’t receive dental care.

    “We would not be able to accomplish our missions without the people working behind the scenes,” said Navy Cmdr. Kathy Warner, the Main Side branch clinic director. “We have a truckload of people working in the clinics that everyone can see, so the patients never realize how much behind-the-scenes work goes into daily operation.”

    This behind-the-scenes work belongs primarily to the Operations Management, Resource Management and Management Information Departments. If you were to classify the clinics’ daily operation into a timeline, it would begin with the OPMAN. This group of only one civilian and six sailors handles a broad spectrum of responsibilities in relation to the clinics.

    Their most important job, as simple as it may sound, is to ensure the clinics’ linen and scrubs are always clean and ready to use. Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Reid, a hospital corpsman and assistant leading petty officer with the OPMAN, said the clinics’ would be unable to operate without fresh linen and scrubs due to infection control regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    But consider the time and effort it would take to travel a minimum of 120 miles every day to pick up and replace 10 dental clinics worth of linen and scrubs, then transport the unsanitary load to Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune for cleaning. Then think of how hectic their work days can be when the OPMAN must handle all issues concerning the 10 clinics’ government vehicles, postal services, facilities management, environmental compliance, safety programs and Mobile Dental Unit training.

    “Many don’t realize how much of a service we provide,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Demarco White, the leading chief petty officer and department head for the OPMAN. “All 10 of the clinics wouldn’t function without our support. Then Marines and sailors wouldn’t be treated, and thus all 10 of those clinics would be effectively wiped out.”

    Even though the dental officers, hygienists and technicians have their functional facility and necessary clothing by way of the OPMAN, they still can’t work with broken or nonexistent dental equipment.

    The Resource Management Department maintains the responsibility of supplying essential equipment to the 10 clinics and repairing equipment belonging to those clinics.

    “We receive about four or five work orders a day,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Beckner, a dental repair technician with the department and native of Sissonville, W.Va. “Any supply and repair request has to go through us.”

    Beckner said he and his co-workers, seven sailors and one civilian, handle the transportation, repair and installation of all dental equipment used in the clinics, such as dental chairs, amalgamators and endoscopic arms.

    Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Lundgren, also a dental repair technician, said the department handles all preventative maintenance for the clinics as well. The Reno, Nev. native said his department visits one clinic each month to check every last piece of equipment to ensure they function properly, helping meet the department’s goal of making certain that Marines and sailors are able to maintain their required readiness.

    But despite having the proper linen, scrubs, gear and supplies, the clinic would still be missing a vital link to the puzzle. This is where the Management Information Department comes into play.

    Sheryl Richardson, the chief information officer and department head, said the MID builds, troubleshoots, repairs and provides technical support to more than 400 computer systems located throughout the 10 clinics.

    She said the department also provides a dental imagery server connected to every computer found in dental operatories, which allows all clinics to view dental X-ray photographs and information involving patients. She added that patient information can be uploaded to disks or other file storage devices from the server, then be transported to other dental care sites in deployed locales.

    Richardson, who has served with the MID since 1995, has seen the department transition from having only 35 computer systems to the current number above 400.

    “We have been able to make the clinics more technically sound and proficient,” Richardson said. “Even if a major network problem occurred, they could still continue to operate using the dental imagery server on site at any other clinic.”

    Navy Seaman Tae Kim, an operations management specialist, said that he, as a hospital corpsman, was previously unaware any such departments existed. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Williams, a dental repair technician, felt much the same even as he worked alongside dental hygienists as a dental technician.

    Both agree thta they've since developed a much higher value for what happens behind the scenes and out of the public eye. They also agreed that despite whether or not others feel the same way, their jobs will still be accomplished and the clinics will remain ready.

    Ellie

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    IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
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