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FirstHealth Dental Care Centers get Palmer Foundation funding for digital imaging equipment

| Date Posted: 3/30/2010

FirstHealth Dental Care Centers get Palmer Foundation funding for digital imaging equipment

SOUTHERN PINES – When Penny Enroth accompanied Dr. Sharon Harrell on a tour of the FirstHealth Dental Care Center in Southern Pines, she saw that every chair in every exam room had a child in it.

Enroth took two major observations away from that visit: that there is a significant need for dental care services for low-income children in this area and that Dr. Harrell and the Dental Care Center staff are kept busy attending to that need.

“There is a definite need,” Enroth says.

A Pinehurst resident, Enroth is president of the Palmer Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based family philanthropic organization that recently donated $37,000 to the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation’s Children’s CARE Fund for use at the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers. The money was used to acquire digital panoramic radiography equipment for the Dental Care Center in Southern Pines and will be directed toward another machine that is expected to be installed in the Dental Care Center in Troy this spring.

“We’ve always strived to provide the highest standard of care at the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers,” says Dr. Harrell, who is director of the Dental Care Centers. “Digital radiography, which will soon be the standard of care in dentistry as it is in medicine, demonstrates to our patients and their families that we are ‘state of the art’ and not a lesser facility than private offices. It also gives the right message to the many dental students, dental hygiene students and dental assisting students who rotate through our office for their training that public health can be high-tech.”

With digital panoramic technology, a large X-ray machine rotates around the patient’s head to provide a comprehensive view of the teeth, oral structures and jaw bone. The digital images provided by the technology can reveal the presence of cysts, tumors or impacted teeth as well as the presence or absence of permanent teeth.

“Digital radiography improves diagnostic ability, enhances clinic efficiency and improves quality of care,” Dr. Harrell says. “Expanding access to care and improving the quality of care go hand in hand.”

During the first quarter of the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers in Southern Pines, Raeford and Troy averaged more than 1,000 patient visits per month. Patients are children, from birth to 18 years, who are covered by Medicaid or Health Choice or are uninsured and who qualify by income level.

After meeting with Dr. Harrell and observing the operation of the Southern Pines center, Enroth was convinced that the request for digital radiography equipment met the guidelines for Palmer Foundation funding. The foundation, she says, is especially interested in assisting programs that help keep children in school or help prepare them for college. An earlier grant to Washington’s Howard University for dental equipment “raised our antenna” for dental care needs, she says.

Enroth’s family established the foundation that encourages “honest, open communication, creativity, education and individual empowerment” in 1990.

“With these values in mind,” the organization’s Web site says, “the foundation seeks to empower young people to reach their potential to become responsible contributors to their families and communities.”

The foundation’s geographic reach is limited to the Midwest states of Wisconsin and Illinois and the Mid-Atlantic area of Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C., unless one of the directors has a personal interest elsewhere.

Enroth’s children and grandchildren are now actively involved with the foundation that has also funded Communities In Schools and Habitat for Humanity projects in Moore County.

“We find a need and fill it,” Enroth says.

For more information on the Palmer Foundation, visit For more information on the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers, visit and click on Health Services.

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