Small Town Dreams
Just like Eva Gabor’s character Lisa Douglas on the classic sitcom “Green Acres,” many urban dwellers balk at the idea of relocating to a slower-paced rural area. Knowing this, and keenly aware of the critical need for additional dentists in some of Ohio’s most rural counties, Patrick M. Lloyd, dean of the College of Dentistry, has been committed to recruiting students from areas of Ohio that are federally designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). He knows that students who call those areas home are most likely to return following graduation.
“There is a tremendous benefit to recruiting students from counties in Appalachia, as well as counties in other parts of the state that are in great need of dentists, because those students are more likely to return home to the family, friends, and towns they know. They understand the needs in their communities,” said Dean Lloyd.
Enter first-generation college student Jake Venoy, '16 DDS, who, having just graduated this spring, is returning to southeast Ohio to live and work in Vinton County. Dr. Venoy was born and raised in neighboring Meigs County, in Pomeroy, a small village of fewer than 2,000 residents located on the banks of the Ohio River. Both Vinton and Meigs Counties have a shortage of dental professionals.
“My dream was always to go back to Pomeroy and own a business,” said Dr. Venoy. “I always wanted to come back to the area. It’s home. It’s where my family still lives. I enjoy the slower pace of life.”
Because Appalachian counties are among the most economically distressed counties in the state, Dr. Venoy felt it was critical to join a practice that routinely accepts Medicaid patients so he can help the people who need him most. He received his wish when he was asked to join Hopewell Health Centers, an integrated health care agency that provides affordable dental, behavioral, and primary health care in counties throughout southeastern Ohio.
Like Dr. Venoy, Class of ‘15 graduate Mitchell VanHoose, DDS, had his heart set on joining a small-town practice. When he started searching for a practice opportunity during his fourth year at the College of Dentistry, he applied only to rural areas. He was thrilled when he was asked to join Muskingum Valley Health Centers, a community-owned non-profit health care center with offices in four counties.
“I knew I wanted to go into community dentistry,” said Dr. VanHoose. “I wanted to give back.”
Dr. VanHoose spends part of his week providing dental care to children at a clinic in Coschocton County and the remainder of this time at a family practice in nearby Muskingum County. The clinics focus on providing children and adults in Southeast Ohio with full-service, affordable health care. Most of their patients are on Medicaid and the practices use a sliding fee scale to accommodate patients without insurance.
For Dr. VanHoose, his adopted home reminds him of his hometown in eastern Kentucky. “I tell everyone I love my job,” said Dr. VanHoose. “I love working with these patients.”
As for Dr. Venoy, he cannot stop smiling when he talks about the future. He, his wife, and his young daughter, Sylvie, are going home. “All of my family is happy that I’m going to be nearby,” said Dr. Venoy. “I’m just glad to be going back by the river. And I’m glad to be going to a place where I’m needed.”