After 40 years in dentistry, 23 of them in public health, Dr. Jim Hartigan says “it’s time” for him to retire.
The dentist at the Community Dental Clinic in Uptown Martinsville, Hartigan will retire the end of April. He was the first dentist at the clinic in 2007 and returned in 2016.
“I’m proud of what is being accomplished at the clinic,” said Hartigan. “We’ve provided approximately $12 million in dental services to low income adults and children. Each year, we handle between 4,500 and 5,000 patient visits and have definitely improved the health and wellness of the community.”
Working with Virginia Commonwealth University dental students and the clinic staff is a joy, he says. “The key is teamwork, and we come together to meet the dental health needs of the poor and uninsured in the community.” He cites the dedication of Teresa White, the clinical coordinator, and dental assistants Amanda Bryant and Brandy Deathridge. “We probably handle 2-3 times as many patient visits as a dentist in solo practice could in a year.”
Hartigan said he appreciates the commitment of the Piedmont Dental Health Foundation, which operates the clinic. “Dr. Crabtree and Dr. Snyder, in particular, are true community leaders who have enabled us to operate effectively and efficiently.”
The financial support of the Harvest Foundation and other organizations and individuals in the community enable the clinic to continue to be open. Private dentists also volunteer their time.
“The clinic is a life-changing and life-saving experience for thousands of people in our community,” Hartigan continued. “We give people hope.
“The clinic is a vital service, and I hope the community and dentists will continue their support,” he added.
Hartigan says his plans are to “enjoy being a grandfather” in his retirement. He may be tempted if offers come to teach.
His commitment to public health came after a mission trip to Ethiopia under the sponsorship of the Christian Medical Fellowship.
“I returned home and told my wife I wanted to dedicate my career to public health,” he recalled. At the time, Hartigan was in private dental practice in Franklin County.
He’s continued to make mission trips to the same village in Ethiopia, teaching nurses basic dental procedures so that they teach others.
In his 23 years in public health, he’s been at clinics in Rocky Mount, Danville, Boydton and Martinsville. He even was a dentist for the Virginia Department of Corrections.
“Most rewarding are the people,” says Hartigan. “They come from all possible circumstances, and they need help.”
“Jim has made a difference everywhere he’s been,” said Crabtree, founder and president of the Dental Foundation. “He’s set an example for the students and staff at the clinic and is a professional of the highest integrity. We are grateful for his service.”
Crabtree said efforts are underway to recruit a dentist for the clinic.
“In its 13 years, the clinic has established a reputation throughout Virginia for quality dental care and excellent dental education,” Crabtree said. “With the support of the community, we’ll continue to meet our mission of improving the dental health of Martinsville and Henry County.”
Dr. Jim Hartigan will retire from the Community Dental Clinic on April 30. (Photo courtesy of Mark A. Crabtree)