Mid-South Hero: Memphis dentist operates free mobile clinic for those in need

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn (WMC) - An undergraduate of the University of Tennessee Knoxville and 1959 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, Dr. Sexton spent two years in the air force before returning to Memphis to start his private dental practice in the Westwood Shopping Center.

But he didn’t stop there.

Seeking to help those in need, he traveled to communities in the Bluff City and as far away as Central America and India. Sexton and his wife Pat, who accompanied him wherever he went, returned with something money could not buy.

“It gave us both an appreciation for our country and what we had here,” said Sexton.

After retiring, Sexton picked the drills back up and took them on the road.

Thanks to the guidance of Pastor Dr. Steve Gaines, a mobile dental clinic started at Bellevue Baptist Church in 2009. It’s a program to serve the underserved in emergency cases.

“God just put it in my heart that I’m to do service,” said Sexton.

A dental ministry on wheels needs a dedicated team and experienced driver. That’s where a retired Memphis fire chief came in.

“When I came on board with this clinic, I discovered that we were taking this clinic to the very areas where I had served as a firefighter. And the love I had for the people in the communities throughout Memphis was really reinforced by being able to do this ministry,” Chief Richard Arwood said.

Being the only free dentistry in Memphis means the need is great, but with willing servants, it’s not impossible because it’s not just about relieving pain in the mouth, but the soul and spirit of each person who sits in the chair.

“When they come, the first thing we do, we share the gospel with them and then we take care of their dental needs,” Sexton said. “And the good part about it is that it’s given me and our people here that volunteer in this ministry a real love for the people of this city.”

Love has no boundaries.

But just as our nation and city were griped by COVID-19, so was the clinic. Now, it can see the light once again and is back servicing patients four days a week.

“Now that vaccinations are here, we are seeing more and more people wanting us to come back and help,” Sexton said.

“Dr. Sexton had the idea of being able to provide basic emergency dental services to the citizens, prior to that, and for that, he is a hero to me and always will be” Arwood said.

Congratulations Dr. Jim Sexton! You are this month’s Mid-South Hero.

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