Dr. Richard “Dick” Hettinger’s passion and commitment to Iowa Mission of Mercy (IMOM) is unparalleled. Dr. Hettinger is a 1979 dental graduate of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics and has been in private practice in Sioux City, Iowa for over 35 years. Additionally, Dr. Hettinger volunteers at the Siouxland Community Health Center one day per month.
IMOM’s mission is to provide free dental care in a large temporary clinic, to people who are unable to avail themselves of oral health care within the State of Iowa. IMOM was established in 2007 as part of the Iowa Dental Foundation after Dr. Hettinger, along with several other dentists, visited Nebraska’s and Kansas’ Missions of Mercy. They spoke with their dental students who shared their experiences about the patients they were able to see. Dr. Hettinger soon realized that Iowa needed their own Mission of Mercy, so he embarked on a “mission” to provide oral health care to the people in Iowa.
Over a two-day period, approximately 1,400 patients are seen at the temporary clinic. Dr. Hettinger, along with numerous others, leads this endeavor with excitement, tenacity, and passion.
The IMOM team consists of dentists, hygienists, assistants, equipment technicians, the dental supply industry, local government, local businesses, church groups, and insurance companies. Iowa dentists not only provide expert care, but most years have been the single largest financial backer. Dr. Hettinger is proud that the UI College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics are a part of the team and their involvement continues to grow each year. He knew immediately that exposing these young dentists to this kind of work would provide them with a life-time of dedication to the oral health care of their patients.
IMOMs have been held in Waterloo, Newton, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Davenport, and Des Moines and will be back in Waterloo on September 26-27, 2014.
Without Dr. Hettinger’s dedication and commitment, the state of Iowa would not have a Mission of Mercy group. IMOM has seen an increase in the number of patients and the value of care provided to these individuals. Dr. Hettinger is often asked how all of this gets done in two days, and he answers “you can do anything if you can get a thousand of your friends to come and help.”