Lexington dentist will continue volunteering at free clinic, but retires from administrative responsibilities

Dr. Robert Henry (Herald-Leader photo by Matt Goins)

Robert Henry, a Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center dentist, is retiring from his administrative duties at the Lexington Mission Dental Clinic on South Martin Luther King Boulevard, but plans to continue there as a volunteer, Cheryl Truman reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Henry, originally from Jefferson County, is a founding board member of the clinic, which opened in 2006. Most of the clinic’s services are free to those without dental insurance, but it does charge for partial fixtures and dentures. The clinic stays busy, with volunteers finishing around 9 p.m. most nights, but closer to midnight when they are busy, Ruta Valinskaite, the clinic’s manager, told Truman.

“We realized there was a need for such dental care in Lexington and nobody to provide it,” he told Truman.

The clinic was formed by members of Calvary Baptist and Faith Lutheran churches, of which he and his family are members. Good Shepherd Episcopal, Maxwell Street Presbyterian and First Presbyterian churches and other volunteer organizations have since joined the clinic, Truman reports.

Henry, 60, came to the University of Kentucky as an undergraduate hoping to become a basketball walk-on in the era of Adolph Rupp, but was trimmed in the final cut, Truman reports. Instead, his other love, science, led him to dental school. He also has a master’s degree in public health.

He served as a colonel in the Army Reserve and came to work at the VA Medical Center in Lexington in 1985. He has also been an associate professor at UK’s dental school, where he and another faculty member Judy Skelton, helped to created a Community Based Public Health Dentistry elective for dental students. “The course became the most popular elective and is so in demand that a lottery is held for the right to volunteer,” Truman writes.

Henry told Truman that his professional interest led him to UK and the VA, but it was his religious faith that led him to the mission dental clinic. Before volunteering at the current mission clinic, he volunteered at Nathaniel United Methodist Mission.

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