Notable Maine dentist was removed from association prior to his suicide


Noon Weiss claimed she did not see any indications that her everyday living husband or wife, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, was experiencing a mental health and fitness crisis, but she sensed some thing was terribly wrong when she obtained a simply call from his pediatric dental exercise in Augusta.

“Have you read from Jonathan?” 1 of Shenkin’s staff stated to her, Weiss recalled, on that working day, Aug. 23. “He in no way arrived again from lunch, and there’s an envelope with your identify on it in his business office.”

Weiss reported she understood that Shenkin had turn into upset that the Maine Dental Affiliation removed him from its board the night time before, for the duration of a unique crisis online conference. She reported prior to the meeting, he was unaware that the function of the meeting was to think about his removing. The dental affiliation had grow to be embroiled in vaccine politics soon after it expressed assist for the Mills administration’s vaccine mandate for wellbeing treatment personnel. The removal was for four several years, with the prospective to be reinstated afterward.

“Jonathan’s perform popularity was pretty significant to him. His id was incredibly vital to him,” Weiss stated. “They stripped him of his dignity.”

Weiss – a psychiatric nurse practitioner– claimed she didn’t realize the extent of how distraught he had become in excess of the dispute with the board, and had not seen any earlier symptoms of mental sickness. The two had been passionate associates for 3 and a half decades, and had purchased a residence jointly in North Yarmouth, exactly where they lived with her two boys.

Following getting the connect with from Shenkin’s dental observe, Weiss stated she had the office environment employee open the take note and study it to her. Shenkin wrote that he was sorry, but he couldn’t are living with the problems to his name and specialist everyday living. “I considered I was executing the appropriate point,” the observe mentioned.

She named 911, and police located Shenkin, 50, in his vehicle in the parking large amount at the Augusta Civic Middle around his follow.

He experienced killed himself.


Shenkin had lengthy advocated for general public plan enhancements to dentistry in Maine, which include insurance coverage reforms and pushing for an adult dental Medicaid gain.

Jonathan Shenkin puts his reading glasses on Lulu, the family’s sheepadoodle. Photograph courtesy of Midday Weiss

Right after lobbying for numerous a long time for adults with Medicaid to have dental products and services, the Maine Legislature and the Mills administration authorized the dental benefit this calendar year, growing accessibility for about 70,000 far more men and women. Shenkin experienced also formerly been a vice president for the American Dental Association, and had been quoted in numerous major media businesses about how general public coverage could improve dental treatment.

“He was remarkable. He was a trailblazer. He noticed all around corners and pushed for modify when he noticed there was an unmet require,” explained his brother, Todd Shenkin, of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Shenkin experienced been a member of the state’s dental association for many several years when the issue of whether to guidance a vaccine mandate for health and fitness treatment employees arrived up this summertime.

The MDA board voted in June to help the Mills administration’s overall health care mandate, with a motion produced by Shenkin. Weiss claimed he explained to her that he agreed with the state’s efforts to have harmless workplaces with vaccinated well being care staff, like dental practices. A information release despatched out Aug. 12 by the governor’s workplace quoted Dr. Heather Keeling, MDA board president, as becoming in whole assistance of the mandate.

“The Maine Dental Affiliation and its members have been proactive about COVID-19 vaccinations and keeping their methods as harmless as attainable for clients,” Keeling explained in a statement. “That will keep on with the governor’s new necessity, which we totally aid.”

But Weiss explained Shenkin had explained to her that just after the MDA supported the mandate, some dental techniques complained to the MDA that the mandate would cause them to reduce personnel who didn’t want to be vaccinated.

By August, the controversy built its way to the Maine Dental Affiliation board, which held an unexpected emergency assembly on Aug. 22. Weiss explained Shenkin told her he was blindsided, and experienced no thought the meeting’s purpose was to choose irrespective of whether he should really be ousted.

“I feel they panicked, and he was a excellent scapegoat. I assume there was dread powering this,” Weiss explained.

Shenkin’s ouster was associated to communications he experienced with the Maine Middle for Condition Handle and Prevention about the vaccine mandate. Shenkin, in an email, informed Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, that the Maine Dental Association had authorised a plan in June supportive of the vaccine mandate, and referred more questions to MDA management.

A dentist who was present in the course of the Zoom meeting in which Shenkin was eliminated – and who did not want to be determined for panic of expert reprisal – reported the proceeding was like a “witch hunt” and that Shenkin did not do something wrong by relaying messages about the MDA’s placement to Dr. Shah. The particular person mentioned the assembly was run by board member Dr. Brad Rand, who designed the movement to remove Shenkin. Rand did not react to requests for comment.

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

“I emailed Dr. Shah and stated 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 present at the board assembly that taken off Shenkin claimed, “I don’t imagine he reported anything different than what I would have explained to Dr. Shah.” There ended up two phone calls for votes to oust Shenkin, a movement that would call for a two-thirds majority. The initially vote unsuccessful 7-3 with a few abstentions and just after much more dialogue, the next vote succeeded 11-2, the person claimed.

Weiss claimed Shenkin did not keep an inflexible position about the vaccine mandate. He wanted to give dental tactics adequate time to comply so as not to put up with from workforce shortages. The Mills administration delayed enforcement of its vaccine mandate to late October to give health and fitness treatment companies time to comply and, if necessary, find substitution workers.

Midday Weiss was the spouse of Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a outstanding dentist who died by suicide after dropping a position on the board of Maine Dental Affiliation subsequent controversy all-around the state’s vaccine mandate for health and fitness care employees. At the rear of Weiss is a bookshelf loaded with cookbooks that Weiss and Shenkin made use of for their shared passion of cooking. Gregory Rec/Team Photographer

“He just wished people to be secure, the sufferers to be secure and the staff to be secure,” Weiss mentioned.

An e mail from the MDA board of directors on Aug. 23 despatched to its members stated that an “unauthorized member” had communicated with Dr. Shah.

“This communication transpired without having the board’s understanding, and more was a misrepresentation of the board’s intent,” in accordance to the e-mail. “The board’s press assertion adhering to the governor’s announcement was drafted just prior to the announcement and was based on the assumption that ALL overall health treatment workers ended up bundled. Further more, we were unaware that no exemptions other than medical would be permitted.”

Publicly, the MDA did not issue a news launch backing away from its assertion of whole support of the mandate. But this slide MDA officials testified in favor of remaining taken out from the mandate in submitted remarks to the Maine Office of Overall health and Human Companies, which was finalizing the rules of how the mandate would be carried out.

The mandate went into comprehensive result in late Oct, but in early November, the condition resolved to exempt dentists and dental workers from the requirement. Portion of the explanation cited by the condition was technical: dentists are protected less than procedures that really do not apply to other well being care staff and are set by the State Board of Dental Practice.

Kathy Ridley, MDA interim govt director, declined to remedy thoughts about the dispute concerning the board and Shenkin.

“Dr. Shenkin’s death was a tragic reduction for his family members, his individuals, the group he served and our affiliation,” Ridley reported in a assertion to the Portland Push Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. “He was an active and valued member whose profession and leadership will depart a tremendous legacy. We carry on to remind people of his lifelong achievements and the many initiatives he took to improve pediatric oral health and fitness in the condition of Maine.”

Noon Weiss and Jonathan Shenkin in Phippsburg at the annual Oyster Olympics. Image courtesy of Midday Weiss

Weiss reported she believes the board’s motion to eliminate him from the dental board triggered Shenkin. She shared the take note he remaining her:

“Noon – I am so sorry that it has appear to this. I had no expectation that my steps would ruin me professionally,” Shenkin’s notice said. “I assumed I was undertaking the correct detail. I truly feel awful thinking about how this will effect you and the boys. I adore you all. I know some would say this is egocentric, but I just can’t go on dwelling my lifestyle with what I have designed. I am responsible. There is no turning back. My follow will be ruined, my track record tarnished, every little thing I experienced worked for considering the fact that I was a struggling kid.”

SUICIDE AND Psychological Overall health

Maine’s suicide rate is 12th-best in the nation, at 19.8 for each 100,000 people, in contrast with the countrywide average of 14.5 for each 100,000. Most of the states with the optimum suicide premiums are rural states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico.

The factors behind a suicide are myriad and easy explanations are inadequate, stated Greg Marley, director of suicide avoidance for the Countrywide Alliance on Psychological Ailment, Maine.

“People on the lookout for reasons often seize on to easy solutions,” Marley reported. “This is a sophisticated psychological health situation.”

Marley reported an function can bring about a suicide, but typically there are warning symptoms, these types of as adjustments in actions, that manifest long in advance of the suicide. He said suicide is preventable and connecting persons to enable is shown to do the job in most conditions.

“For most individuals, suicidal ideation is limited term and it passes, so avoidance will work,” Marley reported. “If you suspect suicidal ideation, action closer, speak to them. If you can, crack by the isolation and get them assistance.”


Shenkin grew up in the Westchester County, New York. His brother claimed he was encouraged to be a dentist immediately after acquiring TMJ – a dysfunction of the jaw – as a baby and needing state-of-the-art treatment.

Todd Shenkin said his brother remembered remaining a hard individual for dentists, which influenced him to go into pediatric dentistry, graduating from Columbia University in New York.

“He wished little ones to truly feel comfortable at the dentist’s workplace,” Shenkin stated. “And he desired to have a broader impact on modern society.”

Even though he had no young children of his own, Shenkin was a “doting uncle” to his two nieces, his brother stated, and like a stepdad to Weiss’ sons.

“After I began possessing little ones, I employed to question Jonathan when was he likely to have little ones so that I could develop into an uncle. His inventory reaction was ‘Sorry, but I see ample young ones at perform.’ On the other hand, underneath all that bluster, he was really a kid at coronary heart and realized how to have pleasurable. ”

A “foodie” who liked to vacation, Weiss claimed Shenkin thought he could adjust the planet, and did so. Serving to children at a pediatric apply, and accepting Medicaid people, many of whom have trouble accessing treatment, was not ample for him, she said.

“He couldn’t sit nevertheless – he was a restless soul. He was unable to sit again and view injustices,” Weiss claimed. “He experienced his hands in everything. When he sees some thing he wishes to change, he goes all in. He’s completely committed.”

In addition to helping prolong dental rewards to grownups with Medicaid, Shenkin also championed the elimination of waiting around intervals for kids whose people get new dental insurance coverage, with that evaluate turning out to be regulation in 2019. Most not long ago, an insurance reform invoice proposed by Shenkin unsuccessful this yr, but is anticipated to be taken up in 2022.

“His legacy is however there,” Todd Shenkin claimed. “He was fantastic. My brother was a pressure for very good in the world. When he died, a gentle went out.”

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