While working in sales for IBM, Dr. Ken Wright felt it would be advantageous if dental and medical procedures were computerized to help facilitate and simplify records. It was that work assignment that sparked his interest and in 1962, Ken was accepted to the dentistry program at McGill University. Upon graduation, he studied periodontics at the University of Toronto, and in 1968, joined the University of Western Ontario as Assistant Professor of Periodontics.
After teaching full-time for two years, Dr. Wright set up a private practice in London, Ontario, while continuing to teach as Clinical Adjunct Professor in Periodontics. “The most satisfying part of teaching was demonstrating various surgical procedures, some of which the students could incorporate into their practices once they graduated,” he said.
Alongside educating, he developed a true passion for Dental Community Outreach, which led to creating the DOCS Project (Dental Outreach Community Service) at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, which was a 12-year success prior to the pandemic. “By going into the various social agencies and seeing patients in their own environments, trust was established, more people were treated, and the dental students had an understanding of how they might be able to help fulfill a need in the community,” said Dr. Wright.
While providing students with a community service experience, something else became evident. “We were only scraping the surface of the great need for dental care for a large section of our society. We needed a permanent dental clinic.”
In 2021, The Wright clinic, a not-for-profit dental practice, opened its doors to the London community. The clinic has permanent staff with support from volunteer dentists and auxiliary personnel. Within the first ten months, they registered 420 clients, completed 2300 procedures, catered to 164 emergency patients, and now have a two-month waiting list.
When asked about the importance of community, Dr. Wright offers, “It is my profound desire to create both in students, and the profession, a capacity for empathy and a need for action. My advice to other clinicians is to find a cause in the community where you can help.”