California filmmaker visits Tri-Cities to collect footage for new documentary

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 24, 2014 

Roldan Jecha Interview

Director Jeff Roldan prepares to interview Dr. Larry Jecha, the former health officer for the Benton-Franklin County Health Department, on Thursday in Richland. Roldan interviewed many of the area’s top health professionals and policymakers for a film documenting the community’s work to raise awareness of the connection between oral and overall physical health.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The California filmmaker helped the Tri-City doctor with her microphone and then began peppering her with questions about the community's health.

Jeff Roldan arrived in town this week, and he has conducted interviews with several of the area's top health professionals and policymakers -- from legislators and hospital administrators to physicians and public health officials.

In a half-hour interview this week, Dr. Amy Person, health officer of the Benton-Franklin Health District, talked about the community plan to improve health and the first-of-its-kind medical-dental summit today in Pasco.

"It's going to be a little bit groundbreaking," she told Roldan.

"There haven't been that many opportunities for both the medical and dental communities to see how their practices are linked together," she said.

Roldan directed the documentary Say Ahh, which will be shown in a free public screening tonight at 7 as part of the summit. And he's using the footage he collects while in the Tri-Cities to create another film highlighting the community's work to raise awareness of the connection between oral and overall physical health and promote collaboration among medical and dental professionals.

The film is aimed at helping other communities undertake the same kind of effort.

Gary Kadi, who produced Say Ahh through the nonprofit Partners in Complete Health and is working with Roldan on the new film, said he has been impressed by the local health improvement work.

"It's amazing to me to see the mobilization of a community," he told the Herald.

The Eastern Washington Medical-Dental Summit is being presented by the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance and The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health.

Richland dentist Lee Ostler is president of the national oral systemic health group.

The summit is drawing numerous medical and dental professionals. The Benton Franklin County Medical Society is a sponsor, and dental societies in the region also support the summit, officials said.

Continuing medical and dental education credits are available. The summit includes presentations from national experts on various topics, ranging from oral health and diabetes to the oral connection to systemic disease. Presentations start at 8 a.m.

Kadi, who has spent years working with health care practitioners, said the documentary grew out of his experience seeing people suffering because of chronic diseases that could have been helped through better oral health. Kadi discovered "amazing people doing amazing things in the area of chronic disease and connecting the mouth and the body. When I got to learn about these courses of treatment, I said, 'The public needs to know about it,'" he said.

Lynn Stedman, director of Columbia Basin College's dental hygiene department and part of the Columbia Basin Dental Hygiene Society, said she sees a more integrated approach as being the future in health care. "Maybe there are facilities with physicians, dentists, hygienists, nurse practitioners -- a little bit of everybody there. And the whole person is treated there," she said.

Hygienists trained at CBC learn about their important role in the mouth-body connection, Stedman said. She added that she would like to see hygienists used more in settings such as hospitals and cancer clinics.

For details on today's summit, go to Walk-ins are welcome.

The Say Ahh screening is free, although people are asked to RSVP at the summit's website.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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