Popular Maine dentist was eliminated from affiliation prior to his suicide

Midday Weiss said she didn’t see any signals that her existence spouse, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, was encountering a mental wellness disaster, but she sensed a little something was terribly improper when she obtained a connect with from his pediatric dental exercise in Augusta.

“Have you read from Jonathan?” a single of Shenkin’s workforce stated to her, Weiss recalled, on that working day, Aug. 23. “He by no means came back from lunch, and there’s an envelope with your identify on it in his office.”

Weiss mentioned she understood that Shenkin experienced come to be upset that the Maine Dental Association eliminated him from its board the evening ahead of, in the course of a particular crisis on line meeting. She stated prior to the conference, he was unaware that the intent of the conference was to take into account his elimination. The dental affiliation experienced grow to be embroiled in vaccine politics after it expressed aid for the Mills administration’s vaccine mandate for overall health treatment personnel. The elimination was for four decades, with the likely to be reinstated afterward.

“Jonathan’s perform reputation was very important to him. His id was very vital to him,” Weiss stated. “They stripped him of his dignity.”

Weiss – a psychiatric nurse practitioner– said she did not notice the extent of how distraught he had grow to be around the dispute with the board, and had not found any past signs of psychological sickness. The two experienced been intimate companions for 3 and a half many years, and had bought a property alongside one another in North Yarmouth, where they lived with her two boys.

Soon after having the phone from Shenkin’s dental follow, Weiss reported she experienced the workplace worker open up the be aware and examine it to her. Shenkin wrote that he was sorry, but he couldn’t reside with the harm to his standing and specialist daily life. “I believed I was performing the correct matter,” the note claimed.

She identified as 911, and police uncovered Shenkin, 50, in his auto in the parking great deal at the Augusta Civic Middle close to his practice.

He experienced killed himself.


Shenkin experienced extensive advocated for general public coverage improvements to dentistry in Maine, together with insurance plan reforms and pushing for an grownup dental Medicaid benefit.

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

After lobbying for numerous several years for grown ups with Medicaid to have dental products and services, the Maine Legislature and the Mills administration authorized the dental benefit this 12 months, expanding obtain for about 70,000 additional persons. Shenkin experienced also formerly been a vice president for the American Dental Affiliation, and had been quoted in numerous significant media organizations about how general public plan could increase dental treatment.

“He was remarkable. He was a trailblazer. He observed all over corners and pushed for alter when he observed there was an unmet want,” mentioned his brother, Todd Shenkin, of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Shenkin had been a member of the state’s dental affiliation for several many years when the concern of whether or not to assist a vaccine mandate for health care employees came up this summer time.

The MDA board voted in June to help the Mills administration’s wellbeing treatment mandate, with a movement manufactured by Shenkin. Weiss said he told her that he agreed with the state’s initiatives to have safe workplaces with vaccinated health treatment workforce, together with dental methods. A news launch despatched out Aug. 12 by the governor’s business office quoted Dr. Heather Keeling, MDA board president, as being in entire assist of the mandate.

“The Maine Dental Affiliation and its customers have been proactive about COVID-19 vaccinations and retaining their tactics as safe and sound as doable for patients,” Keeling said in a statement. “That will continue with the governor’s new requirement, which we totally help.”

But Weiss stated Shenkin had explained to her that after the MDA supported the mandate, some dental procedures complained to the MDA that the mandate would result in them to lose workforce who did not want to be vaccinated.

By August, the controversy manufactured its way to the Maine Dental Association board, which held an emergency meeting on Aug. 22. Weiss mentioned Shenkin advised her he was blindsided, and experienced no concept the meeting’s purpose was to choose whether or not he need to be ousted.

“I believe they panicked, and he was a best scapegoat. I believe there was worry powering this,” Weiss reported.

Shenkin’s ouster was relevant to communications he had with the Maine Center for Condition Handle and Avoidance about the vaccine mandate. Shenkin, in an e mail, told Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, that the Maine Dental Association had accepted a plan in June supportive of the vaccine mandate, and referred further more concerns to MDA leadership.

A dentist who was current in the course of the Zoom assembly in which Shenkin was taken off – and who did not want to be determined for anxiety of expert reprisal – claimed the continuing was like a “witch hunt” and that Shenkin did not do nearly anything completely wrong by relaying messages about the MDA’s posture to Dr. Shah. The personal stated the conference was operate by board member Dr. Brad Rand, who made the motion to take out Shenkin. Rand did not respond to requests for remark.

An e mail 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 outlined the MDA now experienced plan supporting (the vaccine mandate),” Shenkin wrote. “He thanked me and I referred him to our Executive Director. I did not say I was an officer or even a board member in my communications.”

The dentist who was present at the board conference that eradicated Shenkin stated, “I don’t think he explained something diverse than what I would have said to Dr. Shah.” There were two phone calls for votes to oust Shenkin, a motion that would call for a two-thirds greater part. The very first vote failed 7-3 with 3 abstentions and soon after extra discussion, the next vote succeeded 11-2, the individual claimed.

Weiss said Shenkin did not keep an inflexible position about the vaccine mandate. He wished to give dental procedures enough time to comply so as not to put up with from workforce shortages. The Mills administration delayed enforcement of its vaccine mandate to late Oct to give wellness treatment companies time to comply and, if essential, uncover alternative personnel.

Midday Weiss was the spouse of Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a distinguished dentist who died by suicide right after getting rid of a placement on the board of Maine Dental Association subsequent controversy close to the state’s vaccine mandate for wellbeing care staff. Behind Weiss is a bookshelf crammed with cookbooks that Weiss and Shenkin utilised for their shared passion of cooking. Gregory Rec/Employees Photographer

“He just preferred people to be safe, the sufferers to be protected and the workers to be safe and sound,” Weiss claimed.

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

“This conversation happened without having the board’s understanding, and even more was a misrepresentation of the board’s intent,” in accordance to the e-mail. “The board’s push statement adhering to the governor’s announcement was drafted just prior to the announcement and was centered on the assumption that ALL wellness treatment workers had been provided. Even further, we ended up unaware that no exemptions other than clinical would be permitted.”

Publicly, the MDA did not difficulty a news release backing absent from its assertion of whole help of the mandate. But this drop MDA officers testified in favor of staying eradicated from the mandate in submitted remarks to the Maine Department of Health and fitness and Human Expert services, which was finalizing the regulations of how the mandate would be executed.

The mandate went into full result in late Oct, but in early November, the point out resolved to exempt dentists and dental employees from the necessity. Portion of the purpose cited by the point out was technological: dentists are coated beneath principles that do not implement to other health treatment personnel and are established by the State Board of Dental Practice.

Kathy Ridley, MDA interim government director, declined to respond to issues about the dispute concerning the board and Shenkin.

“Dr. Shenkin’s demise was a tragic reduction for his family members, his patients, the group he served and our affiliation,” Ridley reported in a statement to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. “He was an lively and valued member whose career and leadership will go away a tremendous legacy. We carry on to remind persons of his lifelong achievements and the a great number of efforts he took to strengthen pediatric oral wellbeing in the condition of Maine.”

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

Weiss explained she thinks the board’s action to remove him from the dental board activated Shenkin. She shared the note he left her:

“Noon – I am so sorry that it has arrive to this. I experienced no expectation that my actions would demolish me skillfully,” Shenkin’s be aware mentioned. “I assumed I was carrying out the right point. I feel awful wondering about how this will impact you and the boys. I really like you all. I know some would say this is egocentric, but I just cannot go on residing my daily life with what I have produced. I am liable. There is no turning again. My apply will be ruined, my reputation tarnished, all the things I experienced labored for given that I was a battling child.”

SUICIDE AND Mental Health and fitness

Maine’s suicide amount is 12th-optimum in the place, at 19.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, as opposed with the national ordinary of 14.5 per 100,000. Most of the states with the maximum suicide rates are rural states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico.

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

“People on the lookout for reasons normally get on to easy answers,” Marley mentioned. “This is a complicated psychological health problem.”

Marley claimed an celebration can cause a suicide, but normally there are warning indicators, these types of as variations in actions, that manifest prolonged prior to the suicide. He said suicide is preventable and connecting folks to assistance is revealed to function in most scenarios.

“For most folks, suicidal ideation is limited time period and it passes, so prevention will work,” Marley claimed. “If you suspect suicidal ideation, phase nearer, discuss to them. If you can, crack via the isolation and get them help.”


Shenkin grew up in the Westchester County, New York. His brother stated he was impressed to be a dentist following possessing TMJ – a dysfunction of the jaw – as a child and needing superior treatment method.

Todd Shenkin claimed his brother remembered getting a complicated patient for dentists, which encouraged him to go into pediatric dentistry, graduating from Columbia College in New York.

“He required young ones to come to feel at ease at the dentist’s office environment,” Shenkin claimed. “And he desired to have a broader affect on modern society.”

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

“After I commenced having little ones, I used to ask Jonathan when was he likely to have youngsters so that I could turn out to be an uncle. His stock response was ‘Sorry, but I see sufficient little ones at operate.’ However, underneath all that bluster, he was definitely a child at heart and understood how to have enjoyment. ”

A “foodie” who loved to travel, Weiss explained Shenkin thought he could modify the globe, and did so. Serving to small children at a pediatric exercise, and accepting Medicaid individuals, many of whom have difficulty accessing care, was not more than enough for him, she reported.

“He couldn’t sit still – he was a restless soul. He was not able to sit again and observe injustices,” Weiss stated. “He had his hands in almost everything. When he sees a thing he wishes to change, he goes all in. He’s thoroughly focused.”

Besides supporting extend dental positive aspects to grownups with Medicaid, Shenkin also championed the elimination of waiting around intervals for children whose people get new dental insurance, with that evaluate getting to be regulation in 2019. Most a short while ago, an coverage reform invoice proposed by Shenkin failed this yr, but is envisioned to be taken up in 2022.

“His legacy is nevertheless there,” Todd Shenkin stated. “He was fantastic. My brother was a pressure for fantastic in the planet. When he died, a light-weight went out.”

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