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Charles City dentist among those selected for state program

By Bob Steenson,

A Charles City man is among four dentists who were selected to receive help with school loan repayments as part of a program to provide dental care to underserved Iowans.

The Fulfilling Iowa’s Need for Dentists (FIND) project is a public-private partnership that provides funds to help repay educational loans in return for a five-year commitment to devote part of their practice to people such as those on Medicaid, very young children and the elderly.

Included among this year’s recipients is Dr. Michael Hemming, Charles City, a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. Hemming moved to Charles City in 2017 to join Central Park Dentistry.

Charles City dentist among those selected for state program
Dr. Michael Hemming

Hemming said the program officially started the first of this year.

It’s a good program, he said, but it hasn’t had a drastic impact on his practice.

“As far as the day-to-day goes, it’s relatively close to the same. Myself and Dr. (Scott) Hanson, we both see a high percentage of underserved people in comparison to other dentists in the state,” Hemming said, talking about his colleague at Central Park Dentistry.

“But we are seeing an influx in new patients here, which is wonderful,” Hemming said. “We’re getting these patients that have this type of insurance that might not be seen otherwise. They can come see us now.”

A minimum of $80,000 is awarded to each FIND program recipient to go toward repaying student loans. The money comes as $75,000 from Delta Dental of Iowa and from the state, along with at least $5,000 from each dentist’s community. Communities were allowed to contribute additional money as well to increase the support.

Multiple local organizations assisted with Hemming’s award, raising his total loan repayment funds to $82,900.
According to Tim Fox, executive director of the Chares City Area Development Corp., who helped organize the FIND application support, contributions came from First Citizens Bank, Chautauqua Guest Homes Inc., Comprehensive Systems Inc., First Security Bank & Trust Company, Rodney Nordeng, the CCADC, Kathleen Stevens and Fox himself.

Fox said the program is important because it helps provide needed dental care to people who have less access to it, and helps support professional care for everyone in the community.

Jeff Russell, president and CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa, said, “Access to dental care for all Iowans increases with each FIND award.

“Dentists practicing in rural communities improve their patients’ oral health, and they also improve the overall physical and economic health of the communities in which they serve,” Russell said.

Eighty-nine of Iowa’s 99 counties are designated as high priority areas for Delta Dental of Iowa’s loan repayment program.

Hemming said the award is “a very nice financial incentive for myself and my family.”

“This program kind of takes some of the debt burden away,” he said. “It doesn’t take all of it away. It only takes, maybe, less than about a third, but anything is better than nothing.

“This is a great program,” Hemming said. “It takes some of the financial stressors away that come along with high school debt.”

According to Delta Dental, educational debt for most dentists averages more than $240,000.

Hemming said, “We are accepting state insurance patients. If they are having a hard time finding a dentist, go ahead and give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to treat them.

“We are accepting all new patients,” he added.

The other 2019 FIND award recipients are Dr. Bryn Johnson-Ealy, Iowa Falls; Dr. Kali Kircher, Keokuk; and Dr. Matthew Merideth, Emmetsburg/Algona.