News and Information

October 26, 2011

Two Pierce County Dentists Receive Humanitarian Of The Year Award

Two Pierce County dentists who volunteer their professional services to help underserved individuals and create healthier communities are recipients of the 2011 St. Francis Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Albert Bird, DDS, a family dentist who has practiced in Tacoma for more than 30 years, and Donald Swanson, DDS, of Lakewood, received the special award during a ceremony at the Tacoma Yacht Club on Oct. 7.

The annual award is sponsored by the Franciscan Health System Foundation and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. It honors individuals who show extraordinary commitment to serving the poor, peacemaking, diversity and/or humility. The award is named for St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals and the ecology.

In 1999, Dr. Bird became the first dentist to volunteer his time for the Lakewood Community Dental Van that provides free and low-cost dentistry services for uninsured adults and children. He has been a faithful volunteer in the program for 12 years.

Dr. Swanson and his staff are volunteers with Medical Teams International, having devoted their time serving students at Lakeview Hope Academy, a public elementary school in Lakewood, for 10 consecutive years.

The Community Dental Van was established in January 1999 by the Community Health Council at St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, a part of the Franciscan Health System. The van visits three Lakewood elementary schools with the highest incidence of poverty one day every month. An additional day each month is spent at St. Clare Hospital serving individuals who cannot afford dental care.

In addition to Franciscan and St. Clare Hospital, dental van sponsors include Medical Teams International, Clover Park Technical College and the Clover Park School District. Several dentists volunteer their professional services for the much-needed program.

The dental van’s interior resembles a regular dentist’s office. On board, a volunteer dentist performs exams, cleanings and other basic dental care. Those who receive these services when the van is at St. Clare Hospital are encouraged to make a $10 donation to support the program. However, dental services are provided regardless of individuals’ ability to pay. Since January 1999, the dental van has served more than 850 individuals and provided services valued at more than $384,000 at St. Clare Hospital alone.

Franciscan and the Sisters of St. Francis established the St. Francis Humanitarian of the Year Award in 1982.

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