Minton on Mission to Provide Dental Care
Frances “Frannie” Baxter Minton grew up accompanying her father, a family physician, on house calls to patients in Buchanan County, Virginia. She saw firsthand how the need for health and dental care often surpassed the supply. She also watched as the number of health care providers dwindled in southwest Virginia, while the sum of patients who could not afford care continued to climb.
December 18, 2013
Bluefield College alumna Frannie Minton prepares for a day of service to provide much needed dental care to residents of southwest Virginia, who without her wouldn’t get the care they need.
“I saw how hard it was for people to go over the mountain, as they say, to get health care,” said Fran about the trek Buchanan County residents would have to take over Shorts Gap Mountain to find doctors and dentists. “That’s why I made it my mission to bring the care to Buchannan County.”
And that, she did. Instilled with her family’s passion for service and Christian care and love, Fran became a nurse. She earned an associate of science degree from Southwest Virginia Community College, an associate’s degree in nursing from Wytheville Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in business from Bluefield College before beginning a 34-year career in nursing in Buchanan County.
She also worked in hospital, home health and hospice care, as well as industrial medicine before founding the Baxter Foundation, which secured more than $450,000 in grants during its first year alone for a new obstetrics wing atBuchanan General Hospital and improving health care for all of Buchanan County. Eventually, she would create Appalachian Family Care in Grundy, Virginia, the first retail care clinic in southwest Virginia that submits billing to insurance. Open since 2006, the clinic has served more than 9,000 patients.
And, as if that weren’t enough, Fran decided to bring Remote Access Medical (RAM) care to Buchanan County to address the profound need for access to dental, optical and medical services for low-income, uninsured, and underserved residents.
“I grew up in a family of love. We were raised to give, and I want to give,” Frannie said. “I saw how the churches were inundated with requests for help from people, especially dental care. So, I thought if we could have something like this once a year, we might not be able to do everything, but we could at least make a dent.”
In conjunction with Mission of Mercy (MOM) and led by Frannie’s passion for service, RAM hosts one clinic a year in Buchanan County. Using portable dental, optical and medical equipment, volunteer dentists and hygienists offer cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and other oral care remedies.
In fact, in its 12th consecutive year, RAM and Mission of Mercy have provided an estimated $6 million in free dental care to residents in southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and southern West Virginia. But still, Fran says, after 12 years of service the need is even greater than ever before with the number of patients coming to the clinic rising each year. More than 1,000 patients came seeking care this year. So many, Fran said, they couldn’t treat them all.
“We have people standing in line as early as 5 a.m. on a Friday morning for care they may not even get until Saturday,” she said. “The lines are sometimes 300 yards long. They just need help, but the sad part is we still have to turn people away. That breaks my heart. We could do one of these every week and would still have patients to serve in dental.”
And, Fran added, they couldn’t do the work they do without the generosity of the oral health care providers who donate their time, energy and resources for two days that sometimes last as long as 14 hours each. Starting with just a handful, the group of volunteer dentists has now grown to about 50, Fran said, with another 50-75 dental students joining the cause. She can’t wait, she added, to include among those volunteers students from the Bluefield College School of Dental Medicine.
“I am so much in favor of the Bluefield College School of Dental Medicine,” Fran said. “It will provide us with even more volunteers and allow us to do even more clinics. And, if the students from the school stay in southwest Virginia, we’ll be able to further address the shortage of dentists in this area.”
Now, at age 62, battling breast cancer in the midst of her tireless work and service, some might say the dental mission may soon be over. Not Fran. She says God still has much more for her to do.
“He’s not finished with me yet,” said Fran. “The need is still there. A lot of people go out of the area for missions, but I do it right in my own back yard. You have to keep on keeping on. As long as I’m able, that’s what I’ll do.”