Popular Maine dentist was eradicated from association prior to his suicide

Noon Weiss said she did not see any signs that her lifetime partner, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, was dealing with a psychological health and fitness crisis, but she sensed a little something was terribly wrong when she obtained a phone from his pediatric dental apply in Augusta.

“Have you listened to from Jonathan?” a single of Shenkin’s workers stated to her, Weiss recalled, on that day, Aug. 23. “He under no circumstances arrived back again from lunch, and there is an envelope with your identify on it in his workplace.”

Weiss claimed she understood that Shenkin had grow to be upset that the Maine Dental Association eradicated him from its board the night ahead of, during a exclusive unexpected emergency online assembly. She stated prior to the conference, he was unaware that the purpose of the assembly was to contemplate his removing. The dental affiliation experienced turn out to be embroiled in vaccine politics right after it expressed help for the Mills administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers. The elimination was for four many years, with the potential to be reinstated afterward.

“Jonathan’s perform status was pretty important to him. His id was quite critical to him,” Weiss explained. “They stripped him of his dignity.”

Weiss – a psychiatric nurse practitioner– claimed she didn’t notice the extent of how distraught he had turn out to be in excess of the dispute with the board, and experienced not found any previous signs of psychological illness. The two had been intimate partners for 3 and a 50 % yrs, and experienced procured a house collectively in North Yarmouth, where they lived with her two boys.

Just after acquiring the call from Shenkin’s dental observe, Weiss reported she experienced the business worker open up the note and go through it to her. Shenkin wrote that he was sorry, but he could not live with the harm to his popularity and specialist everyday living. “I believed I was carrying out the ideal factor,” the notice claimed.

She named 911, and police found Shenkin, 50, in his car or truck in the parking ton at the Augusta Civic Middle near his follow.

He had killed himself.


Shenkin experienced extended advocated for general public coverage enhancements to dentistry in Maine, which include insurance coverage reforms and pushing for an adult dental Medicaid profit.

Jonathan Shenkin puts his reading eyeglasses on Lulu, the family’s sheepadoodle. Image courtesy of Noon Weiss

Immediately after lobbying for quite a few several years for older people with Medicaid to have dental companies, the Maine Legislature and the Mills administration authorized the dental gain this yr, expanding accessibility for about 70,000 much more persons. Shenkin had also beforehand been a vice president for the American Dental Affiliation, and experienced been quoted in several important media organizations about how general public policy could boost dental care.

“He was awesome. He was a trailblazer. He observed about corners and pushed for improve when he observed there was an unmet need,” said his brother, Todd Shenkin, of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Shenkin experienced been a member of the state’s dental association for a lot of years when the challenge of irrespective of whether to assistance a vaccine mandate for wellbeing treatment employees arrived up this summer time.

The MDA board voted in June to assistance the Mills administration’s health care mandate, with a motion made by Shenkin. Weiss stated he instructed her that he agreed with the state’s endeavours to have safe and sound workplaces with vaccinated wellness care personnel, which include dental tactics. A information launch sent out Aug. 12 by the governor’s office environment quoted Dr. Heather Keeling, MDA board president, as being in total assist of the mandate.

“The Maine Dental Affiliation and its users have been proactive about COVID-19 vaccinations and maintaining their techniques as secure as attainable for patients,” Keeling stated in a statement. “That will proceed with the governor’s new necessity, which we fully support.”

But Weiss reported Shenkin had told her that just after the MDA supported the mandate, some dental tactics complained to the MDA that the mandate would lead to them to lose workforce who did not want to be vaccinated.

By August, the controversy designed its way to the Maine Dental Association board, which held an crisis conference on Aug. 22. Weiss claimed Shenkin informed her he was blindsided, and experienced no notion the meeting’s reason was to choose no matter whether he ought to be ousted.

“I imagine they panicked, and he was a best scapegoat. I think there was anxiety at the rear of this,” Weiss explained.

Shenkin’s ouster was linked to communications he had with the Maine Center for Sickness Control and Avoidance about the vaccine mandate. Shenkin, in an email, told Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, that the Maine Dental Affiliation experienced permitted a plan in June supportive of the vaccine mandate, and referred even more queries to MDA management.

A dentist who was current through the Zoom assembly where by Shenkin was eliminated – and who did not wish to be determined for panic of professional reprisal – stated the proceeding was like a “witch hunt” and that Shenkin did not do just about anything improper by relaying messages about the MDA’s posture to Dr. Shah. The individual reported the conference was run by board member Dr. Brad Rand, who made the motion to get rid of Shenkin. Rand did not react to requests for remark.

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

“I emailed Dr. Shah and pointed out the MDA now had coverage 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 existing at the board assembly that removed Shenkin explained, “I never assume he said nearly anything distinctive than what I would have said to Dr. Shah.” There had been two phone calls for votes to oust Shenkin, a motion that would call for a two-thirds bulk. The first vote failed 7-3 with 3 abstentions and following much more dialogue, the next vote succeeded 11-2, the personal said.

Weiss reported Shenkin did not maintain an rigid situation about the vaccine mandate. He wished to give dental tactics sufficient time to comply so as not to endure from workforce shortages. The Mills administration delayed enforcement of its vaccine mandate to late October to give well being care vendors time to comply and, if necessary, locate substitute personnel.

Noon Weiss was the associate of Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a prominent dentist who died by suicide after losing a place on the board of Maine Dental Affiliation following controversy all around the state’s vaccine mandate for health care staff. Behind Weiss is a bookshelf crammed with cookbooks that Weiss and Shenkin applied for their shared passion of cooking. Gregory Rec/Team Photographer

“He just preferred people today to be risk-free, the clients to be risk-free and the workers to be safe and sound,” Weiss mentioned.

An electronic mail from the MDA board of directors on Aug. 23 sent to its members mentioned that an “unauthorized member” experienced communicated with Dr. Shah.

“This interaction transpired with out the board’s expertise, and further more was a misrepresentation of the board’s intent,” according to the e mail. “The board’s push assertion pursuing the governor’s announcement was drafted just prior to the announcement and was centered on the assumption that ALL overall health care personnel were being provided. More, we were unaware that no exemptions other than healthcare would be permitted.”

Publicly, the MDA did not concern a information release backing absent from its assertion of whole support of the mandate. But this tumble MDA officers testified in favor of staying taken out from the mandate in submitted remarks to the Maine Division of Overall health and Human Providers, which was finalizing the principles of how the mandate would be implemented.

The mandate went into whole impact in late October, but in early November, the point out determined to exempt dentists and dental personnel from the need. Portion of the cause cited by the point out was technical: dentists are included below procedures that really do not apply to other well being care personnel and are set by the Point out Board of Dental Apply.

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

“Dr. Shenkin’s loss of life was a tragic decline for his family members, his patients, the community he served and our association,” Ridley mentioned in a statement to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. “He was an active and valued member whose vocation and leadership will leave a tremendous legacy. We go on to remind people of his lifelong achievements and the numerous endeavours he took to increase pediatric oral health and fitness in the state of Maine.”

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

Weiss claimed she believes the board’s action to get rid of him from the dental board brought on Shenkin. She shared the note he left her:

“Noon – I am so sorry that it has come to this. I experienced no expectation that my actions would damage me skillfully,” Shenkin’s note said. “I imagined I was executing the suitable point. I truly feel dreadful imagining about how this will impact you and the boys. I adore you all. I know some would say this is selfish, but I can not go on residing my daily life with what I have produced. I am liable. There is no turning back. My exercise will be ruined, my standing tarnished, every thing I had labored for considering the fact that I was a struggling child.”

SUICIDE AND Mental Overall health

Maine’s suicide price is 12th-optimum in the place, at 19.8 for each 100,000 inhabitants, in contrast with the countrywide normal of 14.5 for every 100,000. Most of the states with the best suicide prices are rural states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico.

The good reasons behind a suicide are myriad and uncomplicated explanations are inadequate, explained Greg Marley, director of suicide avoidance for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine.

“People wanting for factors frequently get onto easy responses,” Marley claimed. “This is a sophisticated psychological well being concern.”

Marley reported an party can bring about a suicide, but commonly there are warning symptoms, this kind of as modifications in conduct, that manifest extensive in advance of the suicide. He said suicide is preventable and connecting people to aid is proven to do the job in most situations.

“For most individuals, suicidal ideation is limited time period and it passes, so avoidance is effective,” Marley said. “If you suspect suicidal ideation, step nearer, discuss to them. If you can, split through the isolation and get them enable.”


Shenkin grew up in the Westchester County, New York. His brother reported he was inspired to be a dentist following getting TMJ – a dysfunction of the jaw – as a little one and needing superior cure.

Todd Shenkin stated his brother remembered being a complicated client for dentists, which influenced him to go into pediatric dentistry, graduating from Columbia College in New York.

“He needed children to really feel comfy at the dentist’s business office,” Shenkin claimed. “And he needed to have a broader impact on culture.”

While he experienced no youngsters of his own, Shenkin was a “doting uncle” to his two nieces, his brother mentioned, and like a stepdad to Weiss’ sons.

“After I started off acquiring children, I utilized to talk to Jonathan when was he going to have little ones so that I could turn into an uncle. His inventory reaction was ‘Sorry, but I see plenty of children at function.’ Having said that, beneath all that bluster, he was genuinely a child at coronary heart and understood how to have entertaining. ”

A “foodie” who liked to journey, Weiss claimed Shenkin thought he could alter the environment, and did so. Helping small children at a pediatric exercise, and accepting Medicaid people, a lot of of whom have trouble accessing treatment, was not enough for him, she explained.

“He couldn’t sit continue to – he was a restless soul. He was not able to sit again and check out injustices,” Weiss stated. “He had his hands in anything. When he sees a thing he needs to modify, he goes all in. He’s entirely focused.”

In addition to supporting prolong dental gains to grownups with Medicaid, Shenkin also championed the elimination of waiting periods for young children whose families get new dental insurance policies, with that evaluate becoming regulation in 2019. Most lately, an coverage reform invoice proposed by Shenkin unsuccessful this 12 months, but is expected to be taken up in 2022.

“His legacy is nevertheless there,” Todd Shenkin claimed. “He was brilliant. My brother was a drive for fantastic in the world. When he died, a gentle went out.”

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