38 years of serving the underserved
Sponsored by Aloha Medical Mission
Aloha Medical Mission is a volunteer organization based in Honolulu providing free dental care to the underserved community here in the islands for nearly 40 years. HI Now host Kainoa Carlson spoke with Executive Director Toni Muranaka to learn more.
The unique nonprofit provides private practice dental work with a nonprofit platform and culture. Muranaka herself has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofits, and for the past five years, she’s been leading Hawaii’s only no-cost dental clinic and global surgical missions.
Aloha Medical Mission with humble beginnings at a shared space with the Institute for Human Services while providing dental care for the homeless. Once that nonprofit expanded, Aloha Medical Mission moved to Palama Settlement, where it had a good run for 18 years. Then in 2020, it moved during the thick of COVID-19 and experienced a 267 percent increase in patient visits during the months of April and June.
Aloha Medical Mission offers outreach through four different programs: First Smile, Welcome Smile, Senior Smile, and Train the Trainer.
The First Smile program goes out to elementary and preschools to provide educational messaging to keiki such as “Don’t rush to brush.” The Welcome Smile program helps to give women who have been abused or incarcerated a second chance. By working with a number of agencies, the program is able to help them get back into the workforce. Next, its Senior Smile program aims to remind seniors to take care of their smiles. And finally, in the Train the Trainer program, students from the UH dental hygiene school are able to come into the nonprofit’s clinic to experience the one-on-one care.
“As nothing in life is free, someone pays so that the people who really need help can receive,” Muranaka says. “To run a dental clinic is quite expensive. How we’re free is through donations, writing grants, and we don’t bill the patients nor do we bill the insurances.”
Aloha Medical Mission is able to operate through volunteer dentists and a volunteer board.
For more information: alohamedicalmission.org