Dr. Michael Eggnatz has been a volunteer for Dental Lifeline Network Florida’s Donated Dental Services (DDS) program since 1997. He not only volunteers with the program, but also serves as the DLN • FL treasurer/secretary. Dr. Eggnatz received the FDA Leadership Award in June and the FDA president-elect exudes what it means to be a dedicated dental professional with a compassion for others.
DLN took some time to sit down with Dr. Eggnatz and get his perspective on what it means to be a volunteer for DDS.
Q: What is your experience with Dental Lifeline Network (DLN) and the Donated Dental Services (DDS) program like?
A: My experience with Dental Lifeline Network, and DDS, have been extremely rewarding personally and professionally. Knowing that you are helping patients who have no means to afford necessary care is a great feeling.
Q: Why is the DDS program important to you?
A: The appreciation level of the patients we treat is extremely high and very sincere. I often hear of people who are involved in mission trips abroad, taking care of people in other countries. I think that is wonderful, but I also think there is a tremendous need here at home in my own community.
Q: How long have you been involved with DDS, why do you continue to be involved?
A: I have been involved with DDS/DLN for twenty years and have enjoyed every moment of it.
Q: Why do you think DDS is important for other dentists/labs to take part in?
A: It is important for programs like DDS to exist because they serve multiple purposes. First, is the obvious needed treatment for the patients. Secondarily, the ability to demonstrate to the legislature the value of the work that we are providing for this population, will hopefully prove the need for additional state and private funding for additional care.
Q: Why is it especially important for programs like DDS to exist?
A: I feel I can more effectively and comprehensively treat more people with my own staff and laboratories than I could in any other location. I find helping these patients, who don’t qualify for any other assistance, to be extremely satisfying, in part, because many of them tell me no one has ever treated them with the dignity and respect that they have received in my office. I find them to be amongst my most appreciative patients in my practice.
Q: What is the DDS experience like for your entire staff?
A: Giving people the dignity and respect they normally do not receive has become is a gift for our office to share with each other. My staff has had the opportunity to share the joy of giving care to our DDS patients. They see, feel and hear the appreciation of these patients and they play a vital role in our patients feeling they are being treated with the respect and integrity, I referenced above. This brings our entire staff together for a great cause and our office is better for it.
Q: What would you say to another dentist, who is on the fence about volunteering for DDS?
A: I believe if other dentists experienced the joy of the sincere appreciation these patients express after treatment, then more dentists would volunteer their services more often.
I would challenge any dentist who is on the fence about volunteering for DDS, to move forward and experience the same rewarding feeling when these patients express their gratitude. After experiencing that, they will want to be involved on a more constant basis.
The ability to change people’s lives, doing what we know how to do every day, becomes a reward in itself. This program has become one of the most unexpectedly fulfilling experiences of my career.