Prior to this spring, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) operated its dental clinic in a space that was running out of room for the demand.
Now, it’s expanded its dental clinic large enough to include whales and mountains.
SEARHC renovated the lower level of its building at the corner of Hospital Drive and Salmon Creek Lane, adding a pediatric clinic that includes eight beds and an array of bright artwork. Director of Dental Services Matthew West said the project has been in the works for three or four years, with an emphasis on making children feel comfortable.
“We wanted to create a space that was designed for children,” West said. “When you come in the clinic, you’ll notice bright colors, there’s accessible sinks, there’s art on the walls, there’s a LEGO wall in the waiting room that kids can play with.”
The artwork on the walls, made by photographer and visual artist Sydney Akagi, includes large displays of whales, fish, eagles, ravens and mountains. Akagi also works as a dental case manager at SEARHC. The new facility includes up-to-date technology as well, including advanced cameras, and multiple monitors in offices that make it easier for dentists to show patients x-rays or photos.
Pediatric Dentist Joseph Jackson started working for SEARHC earlier this year after most recently working in Fairbanks, and has been impressed at the upgrades.
“I’ve been in pediatric dentistry for about, this will be my sixth year now, and this is the nicest facility I’ve worked in, Lower 48, Fairbanks, wherever,” Jackson said. “This is phenomenal.”
The facility was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, where more than 80 people showed up to learn about the improvements. West spoke, as did a few others including SEARHC Board Chair Kimberly Strong, about their excitement with the improvements.
The pediatric clinic, which is simply called the Children’s Dental Clinic, has been serving patients since the end of May, Pediatric Dentist Lauren Sanzone said. The regular dental clinic, which has 12 beds, is also still running. Those who have come to the new facility have responded well, Sanzone said.
“The feedback has been pretty amazing so far,” Sanzone said. “Families have been coming to see us for years in our more kind of cramped quarters upstairs and now have all this beautiful, open, bright space. It is a pleasure to work in here.”
Previously, the first floor was home to health promotions offices, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, and behavioral health offices. SEARHC was founded in 1975, serving as a Native-run health organization since then and expanding drastically over the years.
Sanzone pointed out that there’s a perception that SEARHC only caters to Alaska Native patients. The organization accepts all patients regardless of background, Sanzone said.
Strong said that above all, SEARHC is dedicated to helping the community, and promoting good health is a key component to building for the future.
“We look at the dental field as one of the most important components,” Strong said. Being able to bring this to the children, setting that foundation for the growth of our community through our children is so important.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.