Why Dr. Tom Richardson Serves the Working Poor of Austin...
We sat down and interviewed our Director of Dentistry, Dr. Richardson, to talk to him about his work at Manos’ Dental Center and why it is important to him.
How did you come to Manos?
I’m retired military, and I looked for a place that I would call a “feel good place.” [When] you’ve seen the peoplethat come in to [the Dental Center], it’s very clear that they’re needy, and I would call those people theworking poor—the America that is trying to pull themselves up by the bootstraps whether they’re poor, disabled, or immigrant, and they are trying to pull themselves up, and I want to help them. Lately we’re seeing a broader catch, it seems, including students, or students who just finished, or people who can’t find a job. The first thing they want to tell me is “I had a job, I had dental insurance but now I’ve got to come here…”.
How is Manos making a difference in the community?
When I drive up at 7 a.m. each morning, there are anywhere from five to fifteen people waiting in line to be treated, many who have been up all night with serious pain. There are probably twenty people a day who are making the difficult decision “do I keep this tooth, or do I not keep this tooth.” If it wasn’t for Manos, I would imagine many of these people would end up in the emergency room. [They cannot] perform the therapy that’s needed, they simply give medication for pain or infection, which helps, but it essentially just puts off the problem. If [the Center] was not there and there wasn’t an alternative, [patients would be] going from one episode to another with infections, great pain, and disability. Some of the infections are serious, some of them are life threatening.
Since you’ve been with Manos, what is the greatest challenge you’ve had, and what is the greatest support?
The staff is definitely very dedicated and works very hard, and they do a great job. Thanks to the donors we continue to have everything that we need, supplies and equipment, to have the freedom to get the job done. A limitation that we face is that we only have four chairs. My dream is that I win the lottery, and I have millions of dollars to expand the Dental Center. We could run it pretty much like we run it right now, but with more people and more opportunity so that more people are taken care of. That’s how I got to Manos—I can give back to a place that is worthy, and that’s what Manos is for me.