Dr. Jeffrey Yoest

Dr. Jeffrey Yoest is the 2023 recipient of the Ohio Dental Association Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award.

Dr. Jeffrey Yoest has shown a commitment to serving others throughout his career as a dentist. In recognition of his efforts, he will receive the Ohio Dental Association Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 157th ODA Annual Session.

“Dr. Jeff Yoest has shown his commitment to the ODA and our dental profession by faithfully volunteering his time to serve many, many patients in need who needed a helping hand,” wrote Dr. James Cottle, a past president of the Columbus Dental Society, in his nomination letter. “He has done this his entire career and continues to do so today. He is the perfect example of someone that emulates the qualities our society expects from professionals.”

Yoest said he feels very honored and humbled to receive the award.

“I’m not sure I belong in the ranks of the past recipients of this award. I just show up and help at the clinics,” he said. “I’ve never considered what I do a great sacrifice.”

Yoest said that growing up, his mom was a nurse and his parents hoped he would go into the health care field, and dentistry seemed like a good fit.

“I had no desire to be a physician, but I always liked to work with my hands,” he said. “I felt dentistry was a good alternative. As a profession, it was a service to the public. Being a dentist one could use one’s talents and training to be a benefit to society.”

Yoest earned his DDS degree from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1980 and went on to a General Practice Residency Program at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. He then went into private practice in his hometown of Westerville. After practicing for 41 years, he recently retired in 2022 and continues to provide volunteer dental care.

“I was born blessed,” Yoest said. “Although my family was not rich, I hit the jackpot. I had wonderful, loving, supportive parents. I had every advantage to succeed. I just needed to do well in school. It all fell into my lap. Yes, I worked hard and got good grades. But that was secondary to all my other undeserved privileges.”

Yoest said one of his favorite parts about being a dentist is it allows him to give back.

“As a kid, I remember a part of JFK’s speech … ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ This was a challenge for all of us to dedicate our efforts to the common good, as opposed to our own interests,” he said. “Dentistry, in a small sphere, allows us to follow this philosophy. I am now retired. I so miss my associations with my former patients, many of which I really think of as friends. Their kind expressions and loyalty to me, like this award, are humbling.”

Yoest has been volunteering to provide free dental care at the Stowe Baptist Mission since 2007, where he mostly provides extraction services.

“Years ago, I heard about the Stowe inner-city church mission,” he said. “I now don’t remember how. But I thought, this is a way I could be of help to the poor. I felt it was a way someone like me so blessed could help others not so fortunate. I just showed up one evening, and was accepted as part of the crew. Dr. Dan Stowe, whose father was the force in founding the mission, embraced and encouraged my desire to ‘give back.’”

Yoest also volunteers at the Columbus Dental Society and Physician’s Care Connection free clinic at the Columbus Health Department and also served as a Dental OPTIONS provider, where dentists see patients in their offices and provide reduced cost or free care.

“In my opinion, those of us in the professions who have much have the obligation to share our good fortune and resources with those who don’t,” Yoest said. “What else is more important than service and helping others? It’s the best use of our time and gifts.”

Yoest said that he has made many friendships while volunteering with others who are dedicated to helping those in need, and giving back to the community is a group effort.

“To give an evening or two a month at the Stowe Mission or the Columbus Health Department dental clinics is really not a big deal,” he said. “We treat only a handful of patients each time, and in the big scheme of things, it’s just a small drop in the bucket compared to the overwhelming unmet dental needs in our midst. But for those brave few whose problems are such that they are willing to come to a clinic to have strangers perform frightening and unpleasant procedures on them because they don’t have any other options, it is a big deal when they leave without those painful, infected teeth! The big reward comes with the universal appreciation expressed by the patients we see and it feels good to know that someone is better off when they leave us than when they came. We dentists are a privileged lot. I would encourage others to experience the satisfaction I have so enjoyed volunteering. Time and effort invested in the welfare of others pays great dividends in so many unexpected ways.”

Yoest is a member of the American Dental Association, ODA and Columbus Dental Society.

“I never took an active role in organized dentistry, other than maintaining my membership. Although of independent mind, leadership is not one of my qualities,” he said. “But I applaud my colleagues who have given their time and gifts to the betterment of dentistry, and by extension, those we serve. Our profession needs advocacy and information to be presented to the public and our legislative bodies to further the betterment of dental health. This is best done through organized dentistry.”

Outside of dentistry, Yoest is involved in his local historical society and the Buckeye Trail Association. He enjoys spending time with his three grandchildren and woodworking, and he is working to compile his family history into a narrative. He met his wife, Sarah, while in dental school, and is thankful to his family circumstances that got him to where he is today.

The Marvin Fisk Humanitarian Award is given to dentists who are working to improve the oral health of people in need, of all ages and from all walks of life. The award winners give of their time and energy overseas or closer to home, spending hours and personal resources to help fight illnesses.