Opinion: Thanks to a ‘community hero’

Aug 24, 2020

To the Editor:

I would like to take a moment to thank a community member for helping my patients at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in Massachusetts.  

I work as a nurse navigator for the Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care. Part of my role as a nurse navigator is to help patients get the appointments they need in a timely manner in order to receive treatment for their cancer.  

Patients who are diagnosed with head and neck cancer have numerous testing, procedures and appointments they need prior to beginning treatment with chemotherapy and radiation. Because radiation treatment for head and neck cancer is delivered in or near the oral cavity, patients must see a dentist prior to beginning treatment. This is important because if they have a cavity or decaying teeth and they receive radiation, it can lead to serious infections, sometimes requiring surgery to remove an infected jawbone, as well as sepsis and In severe cases, death. For this reason, all patients receiving radiation treatment for head and neck cancer are required to see a dentist prior to beginning treatment. 

At the height of the COVID 19 pandemic here in Massachusetts, most dentist offices were closed. It was very difficult to get through to a dentist’s office. I left messages, never getting a return phone call. When I did reach a person, the case had to be “reviewed” to see if it met the requirements of urgent. It was challenging to find a dentist that was willing to see these patients, both due to increased risk of exposure to the virus and because many of these patients don’t have dental insurance and have no way of paying for this care.  

The one person I could count on during this difficult time was Dr. Brian Foote. If I left a message, he called me right back. He saw these patients the next day. He saw them regardless of their ability to pay.  He saw them regardless of the personal risk to himself. He took care of their dental needs because they needed him. Dr. Foote put the needs of these patients before his own needs.  

Every patient Dr. Foote saw told me how much they appreciated the care he gave them. He treated them with dignity, kindness and compassion. I know this is not the first time Dr. Foote has acted so selflessly, because I have been sending patients to him for several years. But he became a hero in my eyes when he saw these patients during a global pandemic that was not well understood at the time, not really knowing the risk he was taking to his own health. I know he is not one for accolades, but Dr. Foote, you really do deserve some recognition. On behalf of my patients, the doctors and nurses I work with, and the community you serve, I want to say THANK YOU. 


Jeanne Maloney