“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.” – Albert Schweitzer
Ron Kehl wakes up every day asking, “what have I done for others?” For 12 years, Ron ran a private dental practice. He spent his days dealing with the administrative aspects of running a business but not his true passion—dentistry. He realized he had to get back to why he studied to be a dentist in the first place. And so he took a position as the in-house dentist for the Fourth Street Clinic. “I saw a need, and I realized that these people are less fortunate not by any choice of their own, and to treat someone who has a need is to see the power of kindness.”
At a remarkable average of 1,000 patients per year, Ron’s passion doesn’t come without its challenges. Unlike a private practice, Ron and his team provide more procedures but have fewer patients, with an average of 12 patient visits per day. The challenges are varied, most patients are grateful and kind, but it’s just that people hate the dentist. “It isn’t easy to be hated when your sole mission is just to help…I guess you just have to give pain to cure pain.”
An unspoken skill set is to listen to the patients, build a relationship, and let the patient explain what is bothering them. Ron instructs his visiting students more about patient relations than dentistry. “With our patients, there are a lot of mental and behavioral issues. Listening, truly listening, makes it easier on the patient and on us.” Furthermore, by the time a patient comes to see Ron, they may have gone months without help. Without insurance, there isn’t any place to go. “By the time they see me, they may have been to the ER, been on antibiotics, and now, there is nothing they can do. We actually solve the problem…in a sense; we are kind of the end game. By avoiding more costly ER visits, we provide a fortune in savings.”
For Ron, the patients he helps, dental care is life-changing. Day-to-day, Ron is treating abscesses, extracting teeth, and fitting dentures. This clinic is not doing standard annual cleanings. Ron’s work focuses on treating patients so that they can benefit from necessities such as proper nutrition, job seeking, and pain relief. These patients aren’t just suffering from mouth pain; there is a social aspect as well. “And think about it,” Ron explains, “if you don’t have your front teeth, the reality is that you likely won’t get the job.” He goes on to illuminate that we take our teeth and dental health for granted. If you are missing teeth, you are likely not able to eat a balanced diet and poor nutrition leads to a host of more serious issues.
Smiling, he adds, “what I like best—the instant gratification. A person comes in and you think a person is angry or upset; they don’t smile or open their mouths. Their identity is compromised by their broken smile, but after we help them, they are so happy.” In his work, Ron believes that life satisfaction comes by helping others. His hope is that kindness will spread, starting with him and the patient, and spilling over from one person to the next.
Food Truck Face-Off Event Details
What: 5 nonprofits are joining together with the Food Truck League for a bit of friendly competition and fun. Each of the nonprofits is selling tickets; each ticket is worth 5 dollars. For each ticket sold, the nonprofit will receive a kickback of $1.25. At the end of the event, the nonprofit that has sold the most tickets will receive a cash prize. Runners-up will also receive smaller cash prizes. The food truck who has received the most tickets will be declared the winner, receive a trophy and bragging rights as the 2016 Food Truck Face-Off Champion.
When: Saturday, May 14th 6 PM – 10 PM
Where: Liberty Park
Who: Fourth Street Clinic, YWCA, Volunteers of America-Utah, CAP Headstart, and Habitat for Humanity. As well as the Food Truck League’s 22+ food trucks! Plus lots of entertainment and beers!
MAKE SURE TO CHOOSE FOURTH STREET CLINIC!
And follow along on Facebook!
When you walk into the on-site pharmacy at Fourth Street Clinic, it feels like walking into a small-town apothecary. Past the pastel-colored walls and big welcome sign is the prescription drop-off window where you are greeted with the biggest smile in town.
It is not often that a pharmacist is awaiting you with such a kindly invite to fill your meds, but Phuong, a staff pharmacist, makes it a priority to help every client feel special. Phuong styles a clean crew cut and a traditional white lab coat. He also doesn’t look a minute older than 30; he is as fit as a fiddle and full of energy. The whole dispensary seems to listen keenly for his frequent jokes, followed by roars of laughter.
Everyone in the Fourth Street Clinic Pharmacy is smiling, and Phuong knows why.
Phuong seems to live his life according to Kundera’s concept of the “lightness of being”; or perhaps it is carpe diem. Whatever motivates this calm, yet joyful, demeanor could be linked to Phuong’s surprising secret talents.
As a young man, Phuong began working as a pharmacist at a private pharmacy, but 5 or 6 years into his career, he felt obliged to help people in some other way. He changed his career, and for 15 years he taught others in the art of taekwondo. Phuong is a taekwondo master, of the Olympic sparring variety, and he trained his students from infancy to mastery. He is the “teacher that teaches for life.”
He poured his heart into teaching until, one day, he “looked under his mattress and couldn’t find a penny.” Although poor, he knew his work for others was not complete. By coincidence, he learned about an opportunity as a volunteer pharmacist at Fourth Street Clinic. It wasn’t volunteering at the clinic that reminded him why he had once raised his right hand to become a pharmacist, but rather an experience from one impressionable day. He was cycling along the Jordan River with the pharmacy director at the time, when they came upon a particularly needy and injured fellow. The pharmacy director aided the man, hugged him, and bestowed on him a deep kindness.
Now, after 6 years as a staff pharmacist, his days are spent filling prescriptions, educating patients about their medications, providing dosage information and keeping track of everything in a database. Every day, the pharmacy fills an average of 275 prescriptions in fewer hours than an average pharmacy. But according to Phuong, those are just pharmacy tasks; his real job is to be a friend. “Every patient, every person, is the best friend I never met. Treat them like you will never see them again.”
When asked to describe himself in one sentence, he replies, “I am a man of contrasts.” And that he is! Ask Phuong about hobbies and you receive a shocking list of talents: portrait painter, sailor, taekwondo and hapkido master, rock climber and watch repairman. Many talents aside, Phuong is special because he treats everyone he meets as special. For him, it is about meeting that patient who really needs help and returns to the pharmacy a new person. Seeing the life-transformation of a person is what he feels makes life worth living. And sometimes, all that is needed for a life transformation is a smile from an unknown friend.
When there’s not a lot to smile about, what do you do? It’s been 20 years since Mary has really smiled, and who could blame her? Broken teeth, a broken smile, and a broken heart has made it hard to smile about anything.
At 32 years old, Mary’s best friend—her brother—committed suicide. That loss, that horrible feeling that you cannot change was much too painful to overcome. “I just took his death really hard and let the pain take over.” When grief and the pain from losing a loved one is left to take over, coping often becomes a challenge. For Mary, the only thing that seemed to help her cope was drugs. She started with cocaine, but it became too expensive. Her life unraveled while she sought asylum from it all by staying high. She lost her house and the trust of everyone around her. “Nobody wanted me around and I couldn’t pay my rent.” Down the rabbit hole she went and before long, Mary was homeless, addicted, and very much alone. Her mother took over the care of her seven children and she was lucky she didn’t lose them.
On the streets, Mary continued to dope up but cocaine was expensive, so she discovered a cheaper alternative that at the time didn’t seem as bad as cocaine—meth. Life on the streets was scary and dangerous. “I’ve been raped, threatened at gun point, been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have slept in the wrong places…I had to use drugs, or at least I thought I had to use drugs, so that I could stay awake, stay safe. I didn’t want more bad things to happen to me.” The 24-7 game of survival kept her addiction strong and she found herself so lost and without a way to get out.
It wasn’t until January 22, 2014, her 50th birthday, that she took a journey down memory lane. Looking back on the past 20 years, she realized that something had to change. She had to fix herself and her life. “I was 50 years old, full of shame, completely lost, I couldn’t even crack a smile because of the shame and pain…I thought, something has to change.” That same day, she packed up her stuff and headed to Volunteers of America to detox. That day was the defining moment for Mary. She forced herself to complete 2 weeks of detox, and then received outpatient treatment while she stayed at the shelter. Step by step, her life was evolving. As Mary recounted this beyond challenging time, the tears were welling up in her beautiful brown eyes. “I just knew I had to take advantage of all of these services. I did treatment on my own, and I told myself ‘I’m going to do this’.”
Mary did it.
Today, she has housing at Palmer Court and finally can say that she feels safe. With housing and a sober life, Mary’s next step was to fix her broken smile. “Even though I was clean, I just couldn’t smile. I was happy inside, had peace, but I couldn’t smile.”
When she came to Fourth Street Clinic she told Ron and Terri, Fourth Street Clinic’s in-house dentist and dental assistant, how much her teeth and mouth felt like symbols of her shame. She never smiled and she rarely talked. Ron knew that this step was going to be life-changing for Mary. The first appointment was spent building Mary’s missing posterior teeth out of a composite material similar to real teeth. On her second appointment, this same composite material was used to reform the front teeth that had been misused and buzzed down to nothing due to her missing back teeth. It was after this second appointment on March 15th, Mary looked in the mirror and for the first time in 20 years, she smiled and then she couldn’t stop smiling. “I never thought I would get a second chance. I never thought I was worth it. This place always shows me that I am…this place just puts the joy back in my heart…this is better than Christmas!” Ron and Terri instantly realized and observed that with her new smile she regained her confidence and her personality.
20 years later, and with a story that has changed our lives, Mary can tell us with a happy heart and great big smile that now she can “lend a smile to uplift others.” She’s right. All any of us need sometimes is just a smile.
“Patient # 16, please come to window #1.” The phones are ringing, two patients are discussing the pending weather, a women in the corner may or may not be having a mental breakdown. The waiting room is full except for a few empty seats. Coughing, sneezing, snoring, and wheezing are the background noise on this Friday morning. It’s all just a day in the life of the Fourth Street Clinic’s Front Desk Team. At Window #1, the first window a patient sees when they come to the waiting room sits Natalie, the Front Desk Team Lead, who is an intake and eligibility specialist. Her desk is colored by inspiring quotes, post-it notes, pens, highlighters, papers, and on her screen, a long list of names. Natalie waits for patient number 16 to come to the window. “English or Español?” She guides the patient through the check-in process, and he is visibly relieved to know he will get help soon. He goes back to his seat in the waiting room and Natalie calls the next patient.
Most of us have been to a clinic waiting room to check-in for an appointment. However, the waiting room at Fourth Street Clinic can be bit more high energy and chaotic than others. Do you ever think about the person checking you in? We asked Natalie to find out more.
What is your day-to-day like?
In a nutshell, I do intake and elegibility processing. That includes registering new patients, check-ins for appointments, scheduling, rescheduling, and lots of paperwork and phone calls. Plus, there is the occasional “babysitting” for patients who are not very stable.
Why did you take this position?
I really like people! I’m a bit crazy and I like crazy. So, I was excited about joining this team. Also, everyday I get to step outside of my normal little bubble. I like the idea of working with people who are outside of that bubble.
What are your customers like? What types of people do you serve?
Oh wow, the spectrum is huge! We have some of the absolute best patients in the world. They are kind, patient, grateful, and nice. We also have some of the worst patients. But, for the most part, the people I serve really deserve the services they receive and they are just so grateful.
What keeps you motivated to go to work each day?
Definitely the friends I’ve made. There are patients that have become my friends. If I see them outside of work, we know each other by name and we chat! I am important on an individual basis to people—That is incredibly motivating!
What do you like best about your job?
I like how high energy, crazy, funny, and ever-changing it is. No other job in the world will ever be this zany. We have some pretty far out patients that tend to present some outrageous—good and bad—situations. I also love the seeing the progress our patients make—there are some really incredible people.
What do you like least about your job?
The high energy, ever-changing atmosphere, HA! Some days, it can be very exhausting! People can be impatient and mean. It can be hard not to let insults or anger affect you.
Reflect back from Day One to now. How have you evolved in your job and/or as a person?
I have become a lot more open to unknown situations. I’ve learned how to see people for who they are. That has spread into both by personal life and my life here at the clinic.
What advice would you give to someone new joining the team?
Always look for the good. The ugly is louder than the good, but it isn’t more prevailing. Our patients are brave, strong, and kind. They change for the better every day and you will see miracle if you are looking for them.
What are the challenges of your job and how do you handle them?
We get some impatient and mean people who come in. I am sometime yelled at or insulted—for those people, everything is always my fault. But just like my advice to the new person, I try to remember the good. I also have patients who love me and tell me so! I prefer to focus on that. Also, my co-workers constantly make me laugh and that always helps! On last challenge is scanning! Paperwork is my nemesis and I fight it head-on like a ninja!
Any funny stories?
LOADS! But there are funny stories all day, every day! Let me pick one. Well, I was “assaulted” by a naked man! At the time, I used my crisis prevention skills, but in looking back, it is hard not to remember how hilarious it was! Where else is something like that going to happen!?
What is your proudest accomplishment on the job?
Any time a patient makes it out. When someone is excited to tell me that they got housing or overcame addiction—that is the best! That makes me so proud!
Tell me a little bit about your life outside of work.
I’m pretty boring. I have two ginger cats and a scruffy 4-month–old puppy. I’ve had the same best friends since high school and I spend all of my time with them, my family, and my nieces and nephews. My three siblings are my best friends and we hang out a lot!
What are you hobbies?
I love to read, craft, watch TV. I crochet and love to make things for others. Music takes me to my happy place. I also love Lacrosse. I am very involved with the team my dad coaches and I’m on my 10th season of keeping their stats and my 2nd season of keeping the clock for the Utah Valley University lacrosse team.
WE CAN HELP!
Whether you are sick and in need of emergency care or maybe you need a wellness check,we are here for you! Please take a look at our patient brochure to learn about our services. Also, please take control over your health, come to our wellness classes and get the tools you need to succeed!
CLINIC PROGRAMS & SERVICES
Fourth Street Clinic is a AAAHC Patient-Centered Medical Home that provides coordinated medical, mental health, substance abuse, case management, dental and pharmacy services.
- Acute, chronic and urgent care
- Disease screening and management
- Public health screens
- Mental health services
- Substance abuse services
- Dental services
- Pharmacy services
- Well child exams
- Men's and Women's health
- Specialty clinics & referrals
- Street medicine
- Hospital/ER discharge planning
- Recuperative care
- Housing referrals
- Eligibility screening for public programs
- Student training programs
UPDATE, as of April 7, 2016:
Since Friday, April 1st at noon the gas leak has been fixed and Fourth Street Clinic has been open. However, please be aware that there is collateral road construction on 400 South and 400 West, making it difficult to enter the Fourth Street Clinic parking lot to the south. For the moment, it is easiest to enter from the North or the West; left turns from 400 south onto 400 West are blocked. These road blocks may change depending on the hour and day, so please take precaution. Apologies for the construction!
UPDATE, as of 7:00 AM April 1, 2016:
We are hoping to open at NOON today, as crews are still working to fix the gas leak. We will keep you updated as details come. Thank you!
After a routine check, a gas leak was found at Fourth Street Clinic. Everyone in the clinic, all staff and patients, have been evacuated. Everyone is safe and Questar is working to fix the leak. Unfortunately, we will be closed until it is safe to return back to normal business. Nobody was injured and no damage was done due to this leak! We are very grateful that the leak was found and is being fixed promptly!
Stay tuned as we receive more updates!
“Once in a while, all it takes is a smile…and you’ve got two!”
said Sean as he eagerly awaited a new pair of glasses.
Sean is a jolly fellow—jolly in the same way we think Santa Claus is jolly. He is a slim man with a kind smile and a gentle voice. But two smiles? What could he be talking about? Sean suffers from diplopia, he sees double.
Fifteen years ago, after a fall from a steep cliff in Southern Utah, Sean rose from the rubble with double vision. He came out of it to realize that this wasn’t going away. Seeing double made things tough, but music keeps his spirits lively. Sean is an incredible jazz pianist. His whole life, ever since his time as a student at East High School, has been consumed by music. He has played in Tennessee, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and New Orleans over the years. “When I was in my 20s, I decided to take country music and fix it.” Music, in a sense, saved him despite the challenges he faces with sight. He can still play the piano just by feeling it. “I can feel everything through music—she can make me feel happy.”
With music and laughter, Sean has made the best out things. For the past six months, he has been waiting for special glasses that use a prism to correct his double vision. Now, the wait is over. Sean’s new glasses let him see the world with a new single perspective. “Oh my, OH MY, there is only one of you!” At first glance, he saw the prism work, but it quickly faded back to two. It will take time for his eyes and his ocular muscles to adjust to this new way of seeing, but within a month, he ought to see just fine.
Things are really looking up for Sean, he has housing coming up, a new gig at a local bistro, and now he can feel and see the music he plays. He took the nurse’s hand and twirling her, he exclaimed, “You see the Lord is always just around the corner, sometimes he will just be right back, so don’t lose faith.”
Patients like Sean continually amaze us. This is why we do what we do--healing one patient at a time.