During 2017, the AAO Disaster Relief Fund received nearly $200,000 in contributions, aided members and retained some funds to utilize for pending and future applications for assistance.
Members whose practices have been impacted by natural disasters* can apply to see what assistance the AAO can provide. Those assisted by the program during 2017 included some who were affected by hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
“We are very grateful to the many members and AAO staff who contributed to the Disaster Relief Fund,” said Dr. Brent Larson, AAO president-elect and chair of the Disaster Relief Funding Committee. “At all times, and especially during a very challenging year for some members it is very important that the AAO be capable of providing assistance to those affected by disasters.”
Application Deadline for Members in Puerto Rico Extended
Thus far, the Disaster Relief Fund has aided 12 members who were impacted by the 2017 disasters. The deadline to apply for aid is normally three months post-disaster. Some members in Puerto Rico, however, were cut off from communications for an extended period after Hurricane Maria hit the island, and so may have missed the series of eBulletins about the Disaster Relief Fund. Thus, the application deadline has been extended until June 1, 2018 for members in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Orthodontic Society President Expresses Appreciation
Among the grateful recipients of Disaster Relief Fund assistance was Dr. Jose “Otis” Vicens of Humacao, Puerto Rico, president of the Puerto Rico Orthodontic Society. Dr. Vicens contacted Dr. Larson to express the group’s gratitude for the support offered by the AAO.
“On behalf of the AAO members in Puerto Rico and myself included, I would like to thank you for the support that the AAO has given us in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” wrote Dr. Vicens. “This grant served as a reminder that the AAO’s reason to exist is to support the members and there is no better way to show this support than helping the members when they are in need.”
When the hurricane hit Puerto Rico on September 20, Dr. Vicens sustained substantial damage to his office. He says that he now feels grateful to be able to see patients.
“We were closed for three weeks,” he says. “After we miraculously obtained a 5,000-watt generator, we were able to re-open – although with no phone or cell service, we had no way to contact patients. We knew some had left for the mainland, but others showed up to see if we were open. Some even helped us with clean-up. Working in almost 90-degree temperatures proved to be a real challenge, but patients were happy to be seen.
“Now we have a pre-paid cell phone and a second, more powerful generator, so we can use our computer, internet and air-conditioner, all of which helps make everything easier,” adds Dr. Vicens. “Only about 50 percent of the people here have power at this point, but we see work being done on the power lines every day.”
Throughout the fall, Dr. Vicens was also very concerned about his colleagues in the Puerto Rico Orthodontic Society as it was impossible to contact many of them following the hurricane.
“We were able to have our society Christmas party and had great attendance,” he says. “It was really good for everyone to come together, I think. Some of our members completely lost their offices and are now renting space in dental offices or other facilities. This experience is a test of our resilience, but we will get through it and grow stronger. And again, we are very grateful to the AAO for the disaster relief assistance -and also for how quickly the applications were processed.”