December 4, 2022

Cool Rabbits

Healthcare Enthusiast

Outstanding Maine dentist was eliminated from association prior to his suicide

Midday Weiss claimed she didn’t see any indicators that her lifetime associate, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, was encountering a psychological health crisis, but she sensed something was terribly completely wrong when she acquired a phone from his pediatric dental observe in Augusta.

“Have you read from Jonathan?” one particular of Shenkin’s employees claimed to her, Weiss recalled, on that working day, Aug. 23. “He hardly ever came again from lunch, and there’s an envelope with your title on it in his office environment.”

Weiss mentioned she knew that Shenkin had turn into upset that the Maine Dental Association taken out him from its board the night time in advance of, all through a distinctive unexpected emergency on-line meeting. She explained prior to the conference, he was unaware that the objective of the assembly was to take into account his elimination. The dental association experienced develop into embroiled in vaccine politics following it expressed assist for the Mills administration’s vaccine mandate for health and fitness care workers. The removal was for 4 yrs, with the potential to be reinstated afterward.

“Jonathan’s get the job done status was quite vital to him. His id was incredibly crucial to him,” Weiss stated. “They stripped him of his dignity.”

Weiss – a psychiatric nurse practitioner– said she did not comprehend the extent of how distraught he experienced become more than the dispute with the board, and had not viewed any earlier signals of psychological health issues. The two experienced been romantic associates for a few and a 50 percent yrs, and experienced purchased a residence alongside one another in North Yarmouth, the place they lived with her two boys.

Following finding the phone from Shenkin’s dental follow, Weiss said she had the place of work employee open the be aware and go through it to her. Shenkin wrote that he was sorry, but he couldn’t stay with the hurt to his popularity and professional daily life. “I believed I was doing the ideal matter,” the note claimed.

She termed 911, and police identified Shenkin, 50, in his motor vehicle in the parking great deal at the Augusta Civic Middle in the vicinity of his practice.

He had killed himself.


Shenkin experienced lengthy advocated for community coverage enhancements to dentistry in Maine, which includes insurance plan reforms and pushing for an grownup dental Medicaid profit.

Jonathan Shenkin places his looking through eyeglasses on Lulu, the family’s sheepadoodle. Photograph courtesy of Noon Weiss

Following lobbying for lots of yrs for grown ups with Medicaid to have dental providers, the Maine Legislature and the Mills administration authorised the dental advantage this calendar year, increasing access for about 70,000 a lot more persons. Shenkin experienced also beforehand been a vice president for the American Dental Association, and experienced been quoted in quite a few main media corporations about how community plan could make improvements to dental care.

“He was wonderful. He was a trailblazer. He noticed around corners and pushed for modify when he observed there was an unmet want,” said his brother, Todd Shenkin, of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Shenkin experienced been a member of the state’s dental association for several several years when the issue of no matter if to aid a vaccine mandate for wellness care workers came up this summer season.

The MDA board voted in June to assistance the Mills administration’s overall health treatment mandate, with a movement produced by Shenkin. Weiss stated he explained to her that he agreed with the state’s efforts to have safe and sound workplaces with vaccinated health and fitness care staff, such as dental methods. A news release despatched out Aug. 12 by the governor’s business quoted Dr. Heather Keeling, MDA board president, as being in comprehensive assist of the mandate.

“The Maine Dental Association and its users have been proactive about COVID-19 vaccinations and preserving their procedures as safe as feasible for patients,” Keeling reported in a assertion. “That will carry on with the governor’s new prerequisite, which we totally help.”

But Weiss reported Shenkin experienced explained to her that following the MDA supported the mandate, some dental procedures complained to the MDA that the mandate would cause them to reduce workforce who didn’t want to be vaccinated.

By August, the controversy produced its way to the Maine Dental Affiliation board, which held an unexpected emergency meeting on Aug. 22. Weiss stated Shenkin informed her he was blindsided, and experienced no plan the meeting’s intent was to come to a decision regardless of whether he should be ousted.

“I believe they panicked, and he was a excellent scapegoat. I feel there was anxiety guiding this,” Weiss reported.

Shenkin’s ouster was linked to communications he experienced with the Maine Centre for Condition Manage and Prevention about the vaccine mandate. Shenkin, in an electronic mail, told Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, that the Maine Dental Affiliation experienced authorised a coverage in June supportive of the vaccine mandate, and referred further questions to MDA leadership.

A dentist who was current during the Zoom conference in which Shenkin was taken off – and who did not wish to be determined for worry of experienced reprisal – said the continuing was like a “witch hunt” and that Shenkin did not do just about anything wrong by relaying messages about the MDA’s position to Dr. Shah. The specific claimed the conference was operate by board member Dr. Brad Rand, who created the motion to clear away Shenkin. Rand did not respond to requests for remark.

An email from Shenkin to his lawyer – shared with the Portland Push Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram by Weiss – recounted his communications with the Maine CDC.

“I emailed Dr. Shah and mentioned the MDA now had policy supporting (the vaccine mandate),” Shenkin wrote. “He thanked me and I referred him to our Government Director. I did not say I was an officer or even a board member in my communications.”

The dentist who was current at the board conference that removed Shenkin mentioned, “I really do not imagine he stated something distinct than what I would have reported to Dr. Shah.” There ended up two calls for votes to oust Shenkin, a motion that would involve a two-thirds vast majority. The to start with vote failed 7-3 with three abstentions and just after much more discussion, the 2nd vote succeeded 11-2, the specific reported.

Weiss mentioned Shenkin did not maintain an rigid placement about the vaccine mandate. He wanted to give dental methods ample time to comply so as not to go through from workforce shortages. The Mills administration delayed enforcement of its vaccine mandate to late October to give health and fitness care suppliers time to comply and, if required, locate replacement personnel.

Noon Weiss was the lover of Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a distinguished dentist who died by suicide just after shedding a posture on the board of Maine Dental Affiliation pursuing controversy about the state’s vaccine mandate for wellbeing treatment employees. Powering Weiss is a bookshelf stuffed with cookbooks that Weiss and Shenkin made use of for their shared passion of cooking. Gregory Rec/Workers Photographer

“He just preferred people today to be secure, the patients to be secure and the staff to be safe and sound,” Weiss claimed.

An email from the MDA board of directors on Aug. 23 despatched to its associates stated that an “unauthorized member” experienced communicated with Dr. Shah.

“This communication happened without the board’s awareness, and more was a misrepresentation of the board’s intent,” according to the e-mail. “The board’s push assertion next the governor’s announcement was drafted just prior to the announcement and was based on the assumption that ALL wellness care employees had been bundled. Further, we had been unaware that no exemptions other than health-related would be permitted.”

Publicly, the MDA did not difficulty a news release backing absent from its assertion of full guidance of the mandate. But this fall MDA officers testified in favor of staying taken off from the mandate in submitted remarks to the Maine Department of Health and fitness and Human Providers, which was finalizing the rules of how the mandate would be applied.

The mandate went into comprehensive impact in late Oct, but in early November, the state made a decision to exempt dentists and dental staff from the necessity. Section of the purpose cited by the condition was complex: dentists are covered underneath regulations that don’t utilize to other health care employees and are set by the State Board of Dental Follow.

Kathy Ridley, MDA interim govt director, declined to answer questions about the dispute involving the board and Shenkin.

“Dr. Shenkin’s dying was a tragic loss for his family members, his individuals, the neighborhood he served and our association,” Ridley said in a assertion to the Portland Push Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. “He was an energetic and valued member whose career and management will go away a incredible legacy. We continue on to remind men and women of his lifelong achievements and the countless efforts he took to improve pediatric oral health in the state of Maine.”

Midday Weiss and Jonathan Shenkin in Phippsburg at the yearly Oyster Olympics. Picture courtesy of Noon Weiss

Weiss claimed she thinks the board’s motion to take out him from the dental board induced Shenkin. She shared the be aware he remaining her:

“Noon – I am so sorry that it has occur to this. I had no expectation that my steps would ruin me professionally,” Shenkin’s notice explained. “I thought I was doing the correct matter. I truly feel terrible contemplating about how this will effect you and the boys. I love you all. I know some would say this is egocentric, but I just can’t go on dwelling my everyday living with what I have produced. I am accountable. There is no turning again. My practice will be ruined, my status tarnished, anything I had worked for given that I was a having difficulties kid.”

SUICIDE AND Psychological Wellbeing

Maine’s suicide charge is 12th-optimum in the nation, at 19.8 per 100,000 citizens, when compared with the national typical of 14.5 for every 100,000. Most of the states with the maximum suicide charges are rural states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico.

The factors driving a suicide are myriad and uncomplicated explanations are insufficient, claimed Greg Marley, director of suicide avoidance for the Countrywide Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine.

“People seeking for factors normally grab on to uncomplicated solutions,” Marley reported. “This is a complicated psychological wellbeing concern.”

Marley explained an event can set off a suicide, but typically there are warning signals, these kinds of as alterations in habits, that manifest very long ahead of the suicide. He said suicide is preventable and connecting individuals to assistance is shown to function in most scenarios.

“For most people today, suicidal ideation is short time period and it passes, so prevention operates,” Marley mentioned. “If you suspect suicidal ideation, phase nearer, discuss to them. If you can, crack as a result of the isolation and get them help.”


Shenkin grew up in the Westchester County, New York. His brother mentioned he was encouraged to be a dentist after owning TMJ – a dysfunction of the jaw – as a youngster and needing innovative cure.

Todd Shenkin stated his brother remembered currently being a challenging patient for dentists, which encouraged him to go into pediatric dentistry, graduating from Columbia College in New York.

“He wanted young children to come to feel comfy at the dentist’s workplace,” Shenkin stated. “And he needed to have a broader affect on society.”

Despite the fact that he experienced no children of his personal, Shenkin was a “doting uncle” to his two nieces, his brother claimed, and like a stepdad to Weiss’ sons.

“After I begun acquiring young ones, I employed to question Jonathan when was he heading to have young children so that I could turn into an uncle. His inventory reaction was ‘Sorry, but I see sufficient little ones at get the job done.’ Nevertheless, beneath all that bluster, he was genuinely a child at coronary heart and realized how to have enjoyable. ”

A “foodie” who beloved to travel, Weiss mentioned Shenkin considered he could change the globe, and did so. Assisting young children at a pediatric apply, and accepting Medicaid clients, lots of of whom have problems accessing care, was not ample for him, she said.

“He couldn’t sit even now – he was a restless soul. He was not able to sit back and enjoy injustices,” Weiss stated. “He experienced his arms in all the things. When he sees something he desires to alter, he goes all in. He’s completely devoted.”

Other than assisting extend dental rewards to older people with Medicaid, Shenkin also championed the elimination of waiting intervals for children whose people get new dental insurance policy, with that measure starting to be regulation in 2019. Most not too long ago, an insurance plan reform invoice proposed by Shenkin failed this year, but is predicted to be taken up in 2022.

“His legacy is however there,” Todd Shenkin said. “He was good. My brother was a drive for fantastic in the earth. When he died, a gentle went out.”

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