Whitefoord Clinic Addresses Gamut of Needs
The patient whose family is reeling from a recent suicide . . . or whose child has just been diagnosed with asthma . . . or whose husband recently lost his job . . .
These aren’t typically topics of discussion in a dental office. But nothing about Dr. Karyl Patten’s job is typical. And that suits her just fine.
We’re a patient-centered medical home,” notes Patten, Dental Director of Whitefoord Inc. Atlanta. “The patients aren’t just stopping in for oral health. It’s so comprehensive; we’re addressing all their needs.”
Whitefoord was established in 1995 to serve some of Atlanta’s neediest citizens. Dr. George Brumley, a now-deceased Atlanta pediatrician and philanthropist, wanted to bring health care directly to children. He and his former Emory University student, Dr. Veda Johnson, “made a crucial connection between health and academic success: healthy children stayed in school and achieved more,” according to the Whitefoord website (whitefoord.org). The two established an in-school health center serving the Whitefoord Elementary School District in southeast Atlanta.
The program was so successful that it grew exponentially, soon spawning a child development program, after-school program, and a community-based Family Medical Center in the Kirkwood neighborhood. The synergistic components of the program result in holistic service to one of Atlanta’s neediest populations. “The mission is to empower the community through all aspects of health care so they can reach their full potential,” says Patten, who earned her dental degree from Meharry Medical College and a Master of Public Health degree from Emory University.
And area residents aren’t the only ones being empowered. Whitefoord serves as a public health clerkship for Georgia Regents University dental students, offering those completing the rotation a healthy dose of experience treating a medically underserved population.
The dental clinic treats patients of all ages on a sliding-fee scale. “We offer services including filings, prosthodontics, and extractions,” says Patten, who has served as the Director of the clinic for 12 years. “We also address factors such as lifestyle and diet. We address every need that we see.” Whitefoord’s health educator reinforces her efforts on an ongoing basis, and the lessons start early.
“Even if they have just two teeth, I like to see our patients as early as possible,” Patten says. “It gets them used to the environment.”
She enjoys giving the GRU students a small taste of the experience. “Working with the students is one of the best parts for me,” Patten says. “I work with them one on one, so we spend a lot of time together. I think the rotation gives them an opportunity to see health care in a public health light. They see people of modest means who often have extensive dental needs. It’s a different culture for them.”
Says Patten, “They hit the ground running. They stay busy – they’ll say, ‘I didn’t know I could see so many patients in one day’ – but they seem to really enjoy it. They get involved with the patients as much as I do. They see that their services are needed.”
Patten expects only the best from GRU. “I love it when they come,” she says. “I like their outlook; I like their energy. They’re extremely well-trained students.”1995 Whitefoord Inc. established
1998 Child development, after-school, and summer enrichment programs launched
2000 Selected as the site location for an Intel Computer Clubhouse
2003 In-school health centers add dental services for children and adults
2004 Receives United Way Community Impact Award
2005 DuPont Ave. renamed George W. Brumley Way
2006 Accredited by National Association for Education of Young Children for Child Development Program
2007 Receives Atlanta Public Schools’ A+ Award for Innovation
2012 Opens first community-based Family Medical Center