New Smiles for Five Veterans in 2016

New dentures from the College of Dentistry Department of Prosthodontics have given five veterans something to smile about.

Jd Smith, Wayne Whitehead, Glenn Jacobson, Pasquale Ferrenti, and Ray Groves were all in need of dentures. Although the Veterans Administration (VA) does offer dental benefits, not every veteran is eligible. These veterans did not qualify for dentures based on current eligibility guidelines.

Dr. Julie Holloway, Department of Prosthodontics chair, participates in an annual event initiated by the American College of Prosthodontists called National Prosthodontists Awareness Week. The event promotes free oral health screenings, lectures and community service outreach. Since 2011, Dr. Holloway’s department has used that week to provide free dentures for veterans and those in need who lack dental health benefits.

Dr. Mike Kanellis, associate dean for patient care, has been pleased with the department’s commitment to provide free dentures to qualifying veterans. “We are able to help improve the oral health for some veterans who otherwise would not be able to receive care,” he says.

Joanie Donovan, Dental Business Office, had recently been in touch with four of the veterans. Jd, Wayne, and Glenn live in the Quad Cities so Kevin Strunk, a licensed social worker at the VA HCHV Outreach Center in Rock Island, drove them to the College of Dentistry for treatment while Pasquale drove to his appointments from Marion and Ray drove to Iowa City from Keokuk. It was a treatment process that took five consecutive days and five round trips for each veteran. The appointments, Kevin Strunk felt, were “life-changing” for the veterans. At the end of the process, Joanie found that helping the men receive dental treatment was “very satisfying. I thought it was great!” 

Pasquale Ferrenti
   Dr. Miguel Garcia with veteran Pasquale Ferrenti.   
Ray Groves
Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Mahrous with veteran Ray Groves.
Glen Jacobsen
Dr. Salahaldeen Abuhammoud with veteran Glenn Jacobsen.
Jd Smith
Dr. Wissanee Jia- Mahasap, veteran Jd Smith, and Dr. Ghadeer Thalji, Department of Prosthodontics
Wayne Whitehead
Dr. Kan Wongkamhaeng with veteran Wayne Whitehead.
New Smiles for Veterans
Veterans Jd Smith, Wayne Whitehead and Glenn Jacobsen; VA HCHV social worker Kevin Strunk; veteran Ray Groves; prosthodontics residents, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Mahrous and Dr. Jose Miguel Garcia Loera; veteran Pasquale Ferrenti; prosthodontics residents, Dr. Salahaldeen Abuhammoud, Dr. Kan Wongkamhaeng, and Dr. Wissanee Jia-Mahasap; and Dr. Ghadeer Thalji, graduate program director in the Department of Prosthodontics.


Five prosthodontic residents donated their time and expertise to provide the veterans with dentures. Dr. Wissanee Jia-Mahasap treated Jd Smith, an 86-year-old Army veteran who had served from 1946- 1955. “It was a pleasure to do some volunteer work like this,” she says. “It's nice to provide dental work to people who are in need.” Jd was very appreciative. “Everybody’s been great,” he says.

Army veteran Wayne Whitehead was referred to the College of Dentistry by the VA Hospital in Iowa City and Joanie arranged for his appointment. He was treated by prosthodontic resident Dr. Kan Wongkamhaeng. “They’ve all been really good,” Wayne says, “especially Joanie. She made it so easy. Now I can smile at people.”

Pasquale Ferrenti, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, had later worked 12 years as a gunfighter reenactor for Warner Brothers. Pasquale had worn his previous set of dentures for 15 years but they had never fit correctly. For the past three years he hadn’t worn them at all. After contacting the College of Dentistry, his name was put on a list, and two weeks later, he received his first appointment. After prosthodontics resident Dr. Miguel Garcia had designed a new set of dentures for him, Pasquale gave a glowing evaluation of Dr. Garcia’s work: “Superb job! It has meant a lot.”

A Navy veteran, Glenn Jacobsen served on a nuclear sub in Hawaii and Guam for two years. Years later, he lacked dentures and had resorted to cutting his food into small pieces. Now that prosthodontics resident, Dr. Salahaldeen Abuhammoud, has provided him with new dentures, Glenn doesn’t need to worry about the size of his food. “I want to thank all of the people at the Veterans Hospital and the College of Dentistry,” he says. “The people are fantastic – really great.” Dr. Abuhammoud was pleased to help Glenn. “Are we doing enough,” he asks, “to ease the civilian life for those who have served and sacrificed so much on our behalf? … There is so much more we can and should be doing.”

Ray Groves and his wife had previously driven to the College of Dentistry from Keokuk for their dental appointments. Prosthodontics resident Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Mahrous treated Ray. “It is always a great experience,” says Dr. Mahrous. “And it is very gratifying to see the patients come in on Monday seeking better esthetics and oral function and leave on Friday that same week with their new dentures.”

Dr. Ghadeer Thalji, the Department of Prosthodontics graduate program director, is pleased with the results produced by the residents. “It was very rewarding to see how we were able to impact these patients’ oral health and well-being, bring smiles to their faces and change their lives,” she says. “This is only a part of what we do as prosthodontists in our daily encounters with our patients.”

Dr. Holloway sums up the experience for everyone: “It’s a labor of love and gratitude for their service.”