Distinguished Maine dentist was taken out from association prior to his suicide

Midday Weiss explained she did not see any signs that her life associate, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, was suffering from a psychological health and fitness crisis, but she sensed a little something was terribly improper when she acquired a call from his pediatric dental exercise in Augusta.

“Have you listened to from Jonathan?” just one of Shenkin’s workers claimed to her, Weiss recalled, on that day, Aug. 23. “He hardly ever arrived again from lunch, and there’s an envelope with your title on it in his business office.”

Weiss said she understood that Shenkin had turn into upset that the Maine Dental Affiliation eliminated him from its board the night time right before, throughout a particular unexpected emergency online conference. She stated prior to the conference, he was unaware that the intent of the meeting was to look at his removal. The dental affiliation experienced develop into embroiled in vaccine politics after it expressed assistance for the Mills administration’s vaccine mandate for wellness treatment staff. The elimination was for 4 yrs, with the likely to be reinstated afterward.

“Jonathan’s function popularity was pretty vital to him. His identification was quite critical to him,” Weiss stated. “They stripped him of his dignity.”

Weiss – a psychiatric nurse practitioner– stated she did not understand the extent of how distraught he experienced turn into over the dispute with the board, and had not noticed any earlier signals of psychological illness. The two had been romantic associates for three and a half decades, and experienced procured a household together in North Yarmouth, where by they lived with her two boys.

After acquiring the phone from Shenkin’s dental apply, Weiss explained she experienced the business worker open the observe and study it to her. Shenkin wrote that he was sorry, but he couldn’t live with the harm to his reputation and skilled daily life. “I assumed I was executing the suitable point,” the observe explained.

She referred to as 911, and law enforcement identified Shenkin, 50, in his car or truck in the parking good deal at the Augusta Civic Middle around his follow.

He had killed himself.


Shenkin experienced long advocated for general public plan enhancements to dentistry in Maine, together with insurance reforms and pushing for an adult dental Medicaid reward.

Jonathan Shenkin places his reading glasses on Lulu, the family’s sheepadoodle. Picture courtesy of Noon Weiss

Right after lobbying for a lot of several years for adults with Medicaid to have dental providers, the Maine Legislature and the Mills administration accepted the dental gain this 12 months, increasing access for about 70,000 a lot more people today. Shenkin had also formerly been a vice president for the American Dental Association, and had been quoted in quite a few significant media corporations about how public policy could improve dental treatment.

“He was amazing. He was a trailblazer. He observed close to corners and pushed for improve when he saw there was an unmet need to have,” mentioned his brother, Todd Shenkin, of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Shenkin experienced been a member of the state’s dental affiliation for a lot of many years when the problem of no matter whether to assistance a vaccine mandate for wellbeing treatment personnel came up this summertime.

The MDA board voted in June to aid the Mills administration’s health and fitness care mandate, with a movement made by Shenkin. Weiss explained he advised her that he agreed with the state’s attempts to have risk-free workplaces with vaccinated health care workforce, which include dental methods. A news launch despatched out Aug. 12 by the governor’s workplace quoted Dr. Heather Keeling, MDA board president, as currently being in whole assist of the mandate.

“The Maine Dental Affiliation and its users have been proactive about COVID-19 vaccinations and preserving their procedures as harmless as achievable for patients,” Keeling mentioned in a statement. “That will continue on with the governor’s new requirement, which we entirely aid.”

But Weiss mentioned Shenkin had told her that following the MDA supported the mandate, some dental practices complained to the MDA that the mandate would lead to them to reduce employees who did not want to be vaccinated.

By August, the controversy created its way to the Maine Dental Affiliation board, which held an crisis assembly on Aug. 22. Weiss stated Shenkin told her he was blindsided, and had no concept the meeting’s objective was to make your mind up whether or not he need to be ousted.

“I think they panicked, and he was a perfect scapegoat. I consider there was worry behind this,” Weiss reported.

Shenkin’s ouster was associated to communications he had with the Maine Centre for Illness Regulate and Avoidance about the vaccine mandate. Shenkin, in an e mail, advised Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, that the Maine Dental Affiliation had permitted a policy in June supportive of the vaccine mandate, and referred additional queries to MDA leadership.

A dentist who was current during the Zoom assembly in which Shenkin was removed – and who did not would like to be determined for concern of qualified reprisal – mentioned the proceeding was like a “witch hunt” and that Shenkin did not do anything incorrect by relaying messages about the MDA’s place to Dr. Shah. The person explained the conference was run by board member Dr. Brad Rand, who made the movement to clear away Shenkin. Rand did not reply to requests for comment.

An e-mail from Shenkin to his legal professional – shared with the Portland Push Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram by Weiss – recounted his communications with the Maine CDC.

“I emailed Dr. Shah and described the MDA now experienced coverage 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 eradicated Shenkin explained, “I really do not feel he claimed everything distinct than what I would have explained to Dr. Shah.” There have been two phone calls for votes to oust Shenkin, a movement that would need a two-thirds the greater part. The initial vote unsuccessful 7-3 with 3 abstentions and just after additional dialogue, the 2nd vote succeeded 11-2, the specific mentioned.

Weiss said Shenkin did not maintain an rigid place about the vaccine mandate. He preferred to give dental techniques sufficient 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 well being treatment suppliers time to comply and, if essential, locate substitute employees.

Midday Weiss was the partner of Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a notable dentist who died by suicide immediately after dropping a position on the board of Maine Dental Affiliation next controversy close to the state’s vaccine mandate for wellbeing care workers. At the rear of Weiss is a bookshelf filled with cookbooks that Weiss and Shenkin used for their shared passion of cooking. Gregory Rec/Workers Photographer

“He just needed folks to be safe and sound, the patients to be protected and the staff members to be risk-free,” Weiss said.

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

“This communication transpired without the board’s understanding, and further was a misrepresentation of the board’s intent,” according to the e mail. “The board’s push statement following the governor’s announcement was drafted just prior to the announcement and was dependent on the assumption that ALL wellness treatment personnel were being involved. More, we were being unaware that no exemptions other than medical would be permitted.”

Publicly, the MDA did not situation a news release backing absent from its assertion of comprehensive assist of the mandate. But this slide MDA officials testified in favor of being eliminated from the mandate in submitted remarks to the Maine Division of Overall health and Human Solutions, which was finalizing the guidelines of how the mandate would be implemented.

The mandate went into comprehensive outcome in late October, but in early November, the point out decided to exempt dentists and dental staff from the necessity. Section of the purpose cited by the point out was technical: dentists are coated under procedures that really don’t utilize to other health care employees and are established by the Point out Board of Dental Practice.

Kathy Ridley, MDA interim government director, declined to remedy queries about the dispute involving the board and Shenkin.

“Dr. Shenkin’s demise was a tragic reduction for his relatives, his patients, the local community he served and our affiliation,” Ridley mentioned 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 keep on to remind men and women of his lifelong achievements and the countless efforts he took to strengthen pediatric oral wellbeing in the point out of Maine.”

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

Weiss reported she thinks the board’s motion to eliminate him from the dental board activated Shenkin. She shared the notice he left her:

“Noon – I am so sorry that it has come to this. I had no expectation that my actions would ruin me professionally,” Shenkin’s note claimed. “I imagined I was performing the right point. I come to feel awful contemplating about how this will influence you and the boys. I appreciate you all. I know some would say this is selfish, but I cannot go on residing my existence with what I have established. I am responsible. There is no turning again. My apply will be ruined, my track record tarnished, all the things I experienced worked for since I was a struggling kid.”

SUICIDE AND Mental Health and fitness

Maine’s suicide price is 12th-highest in the region, at 19.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, in comparison with the nationwide regular of 14.5 for every 100,000. Most of the states with the highest suicide charges are rural states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico.

The motives guiding a suicide are myriad and easy explanations are insufficient, explained Greg Marley, director of suicide avoidance for the Countrywide Alliance on Psychological Ailment, Maine.

“People searching for reasons normally get onto simple answers,” Marley said. “This is a complex psychological overall health problem.”

Marley explained an celebration can trigger a suicide, but normally there are warning indicators, this kind of as adjustments in conduct, that manifest prolonged just before the suicide. He said suicide is preventable and connecting men and women to support is revealed to function in most scenarios.

“For most men and women, suicidal ideation is brief expression and it passes, so prevention performs,” Marley explained. “If you suspect suicidal ideation, stage closer, discuss to them. If you can, break by means of the isolation and get them support.”


Shenkin grew up in the Westchester County, New York. His brother claimed he was impressed to be a dentist right after getting TMJ – a dysfunction of the jaw – as a youngster and needing state-of-the-art procedure.

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

“He preferred young ones to experience snug at the dentist’s place of work,” Shenkin claimed. “And he desired to have a broader impact on modern society.”

Though he experienced no small children of his very own, Shenkin was a “doting uncle” to his two nieces, his brother claimed, and like a stepdad to Weiss’ sons.

“After I begun getting young children, I utilized to question Jonathan when was he likely to have youngsters so that I could develop into an uncle. His stock reaction was ‘Sorry, but I see more than enough youngsters at function.’ On the other hand, beneath all that bluster, he was truly a kid at heart and knew how to have exciting. ”

A “foodie” who liked to journey, Weiss mentioned Shenkin considered he could alter the earth, and did so. Supporting young children at a pediatric practice, and accepting Medicaid sufferers, quite a few of whom have issues accessing care, was not enough for him, she stated.

“He couldn’t sit nonetheless – he was a restless soul. He was not able to sit back again and enjoy injustices,” Weiss reported. “He had his hands in all the things. When he sees one thing he would like to modify, he goes all in. He’s entirely focused.”

Apart from helping lengthen dental positive aspects to grownups with Medicaid, Shenkin also championed the elimination of waiting durations for youngsters whose households get new dental insurance policy, with that measure starting to be law in 2019. Most not too long ago, an insurance policy reform bill proposed by Shenkin unsuccessful this yr, but is anticipated to be taken up in 2022.

“His legacy is even now there,” Todd Shenkin explained. “He was outstanding. My brother was a pressure for superior in the planet. When he died, a light went out.”