Thursday, January 20, 2022
Dental providers in the early days of the free clinic in the Wesley Foundation basement

For over 50 years, the Iowa City Free Medical and Dental Clinic has served the local community and partnered with the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. Beginning in 1997, the Parrott-Stiles Free Dental Clinic has provided access to needed care for hundreds of uninsured people in our community. The original group who started serving at the clinic included Dick Parrott (’74 DDS), Dick Perkins (’75 DDS, ’83 MS, ’83 ORTHS), Howard Cowen (’76 DDS, ’95 MS) and Brad Stiles (’84 DDS). After being recruited by Parrot, Professor Emeritus Rick Walton began and continues to volunteer at the clinic. During this time, Walton began recruiting dental students to treat patients under his supervision, and Preventive and Community Dentistry Department Executive Officer Dan Caplan (’88 DDS) eventually formalized student participation under the direction of his department. Associate Dean of Clinics Mike Kanellis (’79 DDS, ’82 MS, ’95 MS) was an early volunteer at the clinic, and Rohit Nair has also been an active volunteer and advocate for the clinic.

In its early years, the Free Clinic was located in the basement of the Wesley Center, and dental services were provided on the Wesley Foundation’s basement auditorium stage. Volunteers built barriers around the dental chairs for privacy, as the auditorium also served as the Clinic’s waiting room! After a few years, the Dental Clinic moved upstairs, to a room on the second floor of the Wesley Foundation. The Free Clinic moved to its current location, at 2440 Towncrest Drive in Iowa City, in 2006. Today, the Parrott-Stiles Free Dental Clinic has two private dental rooms. The Clinic employs three part-time dental assistants and a dental hygienist. These four part-time staff work with volunteer dentists and dental students to provide patients with exams, x-rays, treatment plans, fillings, extractions and hygiene. For 24 years, volunteer dentists—many from the College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics—have generously donated their time and skills. In addition, local dental offices and businesses have donated essential equipment and supplies.

The print version of the original article is contained in the Fall 2021 Dental Link.