PSU’s dental debacle

The time was 6:15 a.m. A short half-hour before I had been ripped from the comfort of my bed and much-needed sleep by Air Supply blaring from my radio-alarm. Normally only death, disaster, or travel plans can get me up that early, but I had a 6:30 a.m. appointment at the NE Weidler office of Willamette Dental.

You can only imagine my frustration and anger when, upon arriving, I was told that PSU had cancelled its contract with Willamette Dental, and full payment for the appointment would be expected from me before any work would be done.

This story is just another example of the millions of inconveniences and problems (keep in mind the recent Higher One fiasco) caused by the failure of communication between the decision-makers at PSU and the student body.

It may be that the new on-campus dental clinic which replaced the Willamette Dental program was, "totally student driven" as associate director of the Center for Student Health and Counseling Sandy Franz noted in an interview with the Vanguard.

However, the rest of us, students who weren’t driving, still need to be given a chance for input on these major decisions, or at the very least we should be sent an information packet to our homes letting us know what changes are taking place.

This would not only ease the transition for students who are already receiving care from Willamette Dental, but would also educate other students who still have no idea that they have dental coverage through PSU, much less health coverage, or that they’ve already paid for both these things as part of tuition.

In 2001, when the push to obtain dental services for students first began, communication with and education of the student body had already been identified as major road blocks. If this problem has been out in the open for more than three years, why weren’t educational materials prepared in advance of this changeover?

The cynical answer would be because neither our Health Service Center nor the dental office on campus would possibly be able to withstand the pressure if all the students with eight credits or more who are automatically enrolled in the programs began utilizing it. This is even more true if all the students at PSU elected to become involved and use these facilities.

Yet, many students are still paying for programs they are neither using nor even aware of. That’s a big problem.

Having a school that provides health and dental care is progressive and commendable. According to, 25 percent of the 18 million students in the United States are uninsured or underinsured.

For an example of being "underinsured," our new dental program does not cover students with impacted wisdom teeth; a condition that left untreated can cause serious problem and even death. People who have real medical and dental worries still have no recourse.

However, the program is inherently flawed if the students who are supposed to be receiving this care don’t know the care is available, or don’t know about major changes taking place within these programs.

In a country that purports itself to be among the most advanced in the country, it’s a constant irony that so many of its citizens remain without healthcare or without sufficient health care, especially among the college students who are supposed to be the future of the country.

Since we do have it, PSU, let us know.

Michelle Howa can be reached at [email protected].