Dental Treatment Camp, St. Petersburg, FL
The Sathya Sai Group of Clearwater, previously Tampa Bay Sai Center, has sponsored 6 free medical camps every year in St. Petersburg, Florida for the past few years. The driving force behind these camps is Dr. Geetha Kamath, a practicing Hematologist and Oncologist who began organizing free annual medical screening camps between 2004 and 2008. During these early years, the surveys from the screening camps indicated a dire need for dental, eye and foot care. Receiving personal instructions from Sathya Sai Baba during an interview, Dr. Geetha initiated, with the help of other Sai volunteers, a Dental Treatment Camp in 2008 and added a Dental Hygiene Camp in 2009. Thereafter, she led the efforts to organize a free podiatry camp and a free eye care camp. Now she organizes, with the help of other Sai volunteers, six free medical camps a year in St. Petersburg.
The dental camps are co-sponsored by the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and the Pinellas County Health Department, where it is held. Some patients are drawn from the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Here, the dental patients are pre-cleared for their dental treatment by specifically being checked for heart murmurs and treated with antibiotics prior to their dental work to prevent infection of their heart valves.
A backlog of as many as 160 patients needing dental treatment, benefit from these dental camps by reducing their wait period. Dr. Geetha described the challenges of coordinating the medical and non-medical volunteers. Just 2 weeks prior to the last Dental Hygiene Camp, three of the four dental hygienists who had volunteered for the camp, canceled at the last minute. But with Divine Grace, they ended up with fourteen hygienists at the Dental Hygiene Camp.
The reports on the camp are brief but the numbers are impressive. At the free Dental Treatment Camp held on April 21, 2018, services were provided by seven dentists, one oral surgeon, seven dental assistants, six pre-dental students, six nurses and fifteen non-medical volunteers. A total of sixty-six patients received dental treatment, resulting in one hundred and twenty-five dental extractions, and forty dental fillings. After the patients were registered, their blood pressure and blood sugars were checked. The patients were provided with a continental breakfast prior to their dental treatment. As they left the camp, their records were scanned and they received a goody bag containing dental hygiene products.
When asked “What transformation have you experienced in all these camps?”, Dr. Geetha replied, “It has given me an opportunity to practice and develop tolerance, patience and compassion. I have also understood the importance of creating unity and harmony in any undertaking. Every time I conduct an orientation session for all the medical and non-medical volunteers, I imagine that I am placing the group of volunteers and the plan for the camp at the Lord’s feet. I stress to the volunteers that it’s not the number of patients but the quality of the care that is important. We must do the work with compassion. We must serve lovingly. With much work to complete prior to the camp, it would seem that one might feel exhausted. But during the camp and once the camp is successfully completed, I feel so energized and am in total bliss.”
For selflessly serving others, Dr. Geetha Kamath has been recognized and received several awards since 2010 for her relentless humanitarian efforts. She however stressed that the awards were shared with countless others who make these camps possible. She also donated her $50,000 award to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. More recently, The Bay News 9 presented her with “Every Day Heroes” award in August of 2016. In addition, The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi in Mangalore, India presented her with the “Ishwaramba Puraskar” award in November 2016.