Dr. MaryBeth Wicker gives free dental care to people in need through the VCU School of Dentistry and the Virginia Dental Association. Photo by Adam Ewing
Dr. MaryBeth Wicker enjoys serving others. That's one reason she chose a career in dentistry, and it's also why Wicker's peers voted her the best pro bono care dentist in Richmond magazine's Top Dentists survey.
Wicker is part of the dental team at Dr. Baxter Perkinson & Associates, which has 11 offices in greater Richmond. Wicker, who specializes in dental implants, often gives free dental care to people in need as part of "teaching cases" for dental students, says Dr. Baxter Perkinson, who was one of her instructors at the VCU School of Dentistry. Patients who can't afford to pay for services agree to be observed during treatment in exchange for pro bono care.
A Richmond native, Wicker graduated from VCU's dental school in 2000 and has served as an adjunct clinical faculty member since 2008.
"She will provide free dentistry, not only because she thinks people deserve it, but to give experience to aspiring dentists," Perkinson says. "Dr. Wicker is just a very benevolent, very community-minded dentist."
Wicker also devotes time to helping people in need through the Donated Dental Services program, run by the Virginia Dental Association. When she's not fixing someone's teeth, Wicker is often flying in her single-engine plane to ferry animals rescued from euthanasia to people willing to take them as pets.
Wicker is a certified pilot who volunteers with Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit based near Spartanburg, S.C. The organization was formed in 2008 to address pet overpopulation in the United States. Wicker is one of about 2,500 private pilots who volunteer to transport animals facing euthanasia to adoptive pet owners.
"I found out about Pilots N Paws and was hooked. I like to fly, and I figured this was one way I could give something back to the community. It's fun and very rewarding," says Wicker, who has flown about two dozen rescue missions and transported about 200 rescued animals.
One of her most memorable trips involved the rescue of two African gray parrots from a hoard in Maine. She flew from the Chesterfield County Airport to pick up the two parrots, which were transported to the Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary, also known as Project Perry, in Louisa County.
The parrots were fearful of people, and finding transport for them was difficult, says Matt Smith, Project Perry's executive director. "MaryBeth truly helped to make a difference by offering her time, plane and flight costs to get these two to their new home. Had she not volunteered her services, I am not sure we would have found an alternative at the time."
Shelters take in almost 8 million unwanted animals across the country each year, and nearly half of those are euthanized, according to the American Humane Association.
"The need is tremendous," Wicker says. She began flying rescue missions shortly after earning her pilot's license in 2009. Not one to shy away from challenges, she also has run four Richmond marathons and hiked 1,700 miles of the 2,180-mile-long Appalachian Trail.