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AQ Alumna a Resource to Low-Income Families in Chicago

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By: Lauren Fay Carlson '12

“ I’ve always wanted to work in public health…something that gives back to the community,”

said Kathleen (Pollock) Lucking ‘09. Earning her bachelor’s degree at Aquinas and graduating to Detroit Mercy Dental School in 2013, Pollock studied biology and chemistry, and ultimately dentistry. Now working for Mobile Care Chicago, Pollock applies her passion for health by providing free mobile dental services to patients who cannot afford regular care, contributing a much needed service to community members.

Mobile Care Chicago is a 15-year-old nonprofit with a mission to “deliver no-cost medical and preventative care, education, and support to low-income children and families within their native communities aboard mobile medical clinics,” according to their website. Initially focused on asthma care for children in low-income families, the nonprofit expanded to include dental services three years ago. “That was something that was in very high demand,” said Pollock.

“Access to care is a huge issue in the city of Chicago,” she adds. Many of the families that Pollock treats are either uninsured or have Medicaid, and cannot afford regular dental treatments. By offering free comprehensive care services including cleaning and extractions, Pollock and her team help to prevent major dental problems before they occur. This care, which many might consider standard, is “really helpful for these families,” she said.

In addition to the price tag, Mobile Care’s services have one other attractive feature: they are mobile. Practicing out of an RV equipped with three fully operational dentist’s chairs and all of the necessary tools, Pollock can offer top-rate care in virtually any location. “[We have] basically all of the amenities that you would have in a dentist’s office except we’re on wheels,” she said.

After working for one year at a rigorous, corporate practice, Pollock enjoys the daily change of scenery and the ability to care for patients of all walks of life in various neighborhoods throughout the city. “It’s always an adventure,” says Pollock, who admits that her Google calendar dictates where she will be at any hour of the day. Working independently but also partnering with local churches, as well as the Archdiocese of Chicago, after-school programs, health fairs, day camps and community organizations, the Mobile Care RV is never short on patients.

Pollock also enjoys interacting with her patients, many of whom have never before been in a dentist’s chair. “They’re very honest….and very very blunt and funny…which is always a joy,” she said. Working with children on a daily basis has also allowed her to be herself, showing off her skill, and her personality. “It was kind of a natural fit,” said Pollock. “They laugh at my bad jokes.” Treating patients from infancy to age 21 with the majority under age 13, she is constantly in awe of— and entertained by—her patients.

Looking back, Pollock is grateful that she decided to pivot from a pre-med track toward dentistry during her sophomore year at Aquinas. For her, the decision allowed her to explore her passion for health and science, without the risk of life and death on a daily basis. “The fun part about being a dentist is that you get the opportunity to do a lot of the same training as medicine but you’re still involved with holistic health care… with none of the anxiety,” she said.

Highly involved in a variety of programs like Habitat for Humanity, Community Action Volunteers Association (CAVA), church outreach and various professional organizations, Pollock was able to explore the best fit as she navigated her next step. She even held a research internship at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids. Most of all, Pollock is thankful for the small class sizes that allowed her to form personal relationships with her professors. “That’s really what was amazing about being in our school,” she said.

Pairing a dedication for public health with a passion for science, Pollock navigated a winding path of undergraduate and graduate studies and her first corporate job to find the perfect position. Working as a dentist in a nontraditional practice, Pollock is pursuing a dynamic career in the heart of Chicago. “I feel good every day that I go to work,” she said. “[I’m] giving back and being able to provide a service to a community that needs it the most.”