The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The world in her chair

Fargo dentist cares for refugees

The waiting room of Lynne Olson’s dental office in Fargo, N.D., often looks like a delegation to the U.N. with Somalian, Vietnamese, Bosnian and Sudanese patients—most of whom are refugees. Children often translate for their parents. American Indians, students without insurance, group-home residents and families on medical assistance also find her office open to them. Referrals come from human service agencies, homeless shelters and word-of-mouth.

“Unfortunately, many patients come when the only option left is extraction,” says the dentist, in practice for 22 years. “No one should have to live through the pain of a toothache, especially children. Some have been extracting their own teeth.”

Olson doesn’t expect her patients to pay up front, nor does she turn anyone away. “If they can pay a regular monthly payment, I’m OK with that,” she says. “I don’t even know how many assistance patients I have.”

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December issue


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