MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The lack of proper dental health is something that plagues many people. That was certainly the case for Brandon before he went to see Dr. Dan Carrier, the program manager at the Monongalia Co. Health Department (MCHD).
Brandon, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was once addicted to heroin and other substances. However, he has now chosen a life of sobriety and will celebrate his one-year anniversary in March. He managed to turn his life around through Jobs & Hope WV, which helps those with substance use disorder find employment and even provides training.
“It just made sense for us to sign up for Jobs and Hope, Carrier said. “And it took a little bit of time before we got our first patient with it. It took a couple of months, but it was a wonderful experience to treat that patient.”
Through a Jobs & Hope dental voucher, Brandon visited Carrier, who helped him with cavities, root canals and to stabilize other dental issues.
Helping Brandon and others in this way, Carrier said, feels good because it’s what he signed up for when he went to dentistry school. Plus, he said, he likes to see the transformation people can make with their lives with his help.
It’s been very rewarding thus far. And one particular patient, you could almost see with each visit, things getting better for them. Not only from a dental perspective, but just overall in their life. The patient was more upbeat, a lot of positive traction and beneficial things for them moving forward. And it’s nice for me to just be a part of that.Dr. Dan Carrier – Program Manager for MCHD Dentistry
Jobs & Hope, was actually created by Gov. Justice in 2019 as a statewide effort to help people struggling with substance use disorder turn their lives around. It was also an effort to help revitalize the state’s economy. This means Carrier’s work with Brandon and others could have ripple effects around the state.
But to hear Carrier tell it, he doesn’t think about it in terms of helping the whole state.
“Not usually do I think in those terms,” he said. “We’re usually focused on something very small that’s happening inside somebody’s mouth. I’m not thinking about it in those terms.”
Neither is he ever thinking of himself as a hero, he said.
“Not at all,” Carrier said. “I do not think of myself as a hero. I think that I am performing my trade, what I studied to do. I certainly don’t see that as a heroic act.”
Instead, Carrier said, he is focused on trying to provide the best care possible for any patient he meets.
Often, he said, “we hit home runs”, but sometimes “we do the best that we can”. Knowing this, he said, humbles him.
“It can be a very humbling profession at times,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing. It keeps you grounded. I do not at all think of myself as a hero. To be honest, I’m happy when patients are looking forward to their visits. That’s enough for me. I get a kick out that.”
Although he may not see himself as heroic or anyone special, the effects of Carrier’s work are far reaching.
MaryWade Burnside, MCHD’s public information officer, said Jobs & Hope is not the only way Carrier helps the public.
“Dr. Carrier started at MCHD in 2010, and at that point, he instituted Give Kids A Smile, which is a national program,” Burnside said. “But we started participating when he came onboard. That’s when we give free dental checkups and cleanings to children 18 and under who don’t have dental insurance.”
“And then in 2019, he kind of started a similar program for adults without insurance. That takes place the day before Thanksgiving. And then when we have Smile Express, our mobile RV unit that goes out into six counties. So far, it’s mostly treated school kids that don’t have a dental home.”
All of this reads like the work of a hero. And even though Carrier may disagree, this reporter views him as a hero for the work he does every day.
You can visit the Healthcare Heroes page under the Community tab on the 12 News website to nominate someone.