2017 DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes Recognized for Exceptional Efforts to Enhance Health
Five leaders strive to achieve equity in local communities across the country
BOSTON – DentaQuest, the nation’s leading oral health enterprise and largest Medicaid dental benefits company serving 24 million members across 30 states, today announced its 2017 Health Equity Heroes, recognizing and commending the work of these leaders who are breaking down barriers and developing innovative programming to improve health outcomes and access to care for underserved populations.
Now in its third year, the DentaQuest Health Equity Hero awards honor winners for their contributions locally and nationally. The efforts of this year’s award recipients span critical health needs including improving access to oral health and other types of care, promoting collaboration among health care providers, encouraging community water fluoridation, training community health leaders and more.
“We are honored to recognize these pioneers for their decades of service and unparalleled leadership in improving the health and equity of their local communities,” said Steve Pollock, president and CEO of DentaQuest. “As we strive to improve the oral health of all, this work is core to our organization’s efforts and demonstrates the opportunities for each of us to create change in our communities.”
The 2017 DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes are:
Judith Haber, Ph.D., APRN-BC, executive director of the Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice (OHNEP) program at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing (New York, N.Y.)
Dr. Haber is lauded throughout the health care industry for her innumerable contributions to dental, medical and behavior health, and her expertise in interprofessional practice. In addition to leading the OHNEP program, a national nursing oral health initiative, Haber is also the principal investigator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded Teaching Oral-Systemic Health (TOSH) Program and a leader in nursing education.
Johnny Johnson, Jr., D.M.D., M.S., president of the American Fluoridation Society (Palm Harbor, Fla.)
Following his work as a pediatric dentist and leadership of a comprehensive dental program for low-income community members, Dr. Johnson recently helped found the American Fluoridation Society and is a leading advocate for community water fluoridation in Florida and communities across the country.
Gary Schwarz, D.D.S., M.S.D., co-founder and immediate past president of the board of directors for Dentists Who Care (Weslaco, Texas)
Dr. Schwarz is the co-founder and immediate past president of the board of directors for a nonprofit dedicated to serving low-income families without dental insurance in the Rio Grande Valley. Since its establishment in 1996, Dentists Who Care has included a team of 200 dentists and dental assistants who have donated preventive dental care to more than 25,000 children and adults, totaling $7.5 million in free services. Schwarz is active with numerous nonprofits and causes in his local community, including serving as director of the Seattle Study Club of South Texas, one of the largest study clubs in the country.
Richard A. Simpson, D.M.D, chair of the Oral Health Coalition of Alabama, and pediatric dental liaison to the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
As chair of the Oral Health Coalition of Alabama, Dr. Simpson leads the effort to identify successful initiatives and best practices from other states and implement them in Alabama to enhance accessibility to oral health services for seniors, children and the underserved. Dr. Simpson has also spent the past 17 years coordinating interprofessional outreach and education between pediatricians and pediatric dentists at a state level that has resulted in national recognition for advocacy and innovative collaboration.
Julie Smithwick, LMSW, founder and executive director of PASOs (Columbia, S.C.)
Smithwick founded and leads PASOs, a community-based organization that partners with Latino community and service providers to educate, support and empower families, based in Columbia and with eight sites throughout the state. In addition to serving as a crucial grassroots connector, Smithwick and her team train community health leaders to educate families about preventive health care, parenting and childhood development, as a part of their effort to promote equity and improve health.
Each hero will receive a $1,000 donation from DentaQuest’s Citizenship Fund toward a nonprofit of his or her choice that is committed to promoting health equity.
Based in Boston, Mass., DentaQuest (www.dentaquest.com) is the second largest oral health company in the United States and the largest in the Medicaid space. Along with its charitable DentaQuest Foundation, its clinical DentaQuest Care Group and its educational DentaQuest Institute, its mission is to improve the oral health of all. Follow DentaQuest on Twitter @dentaquest, Facebook at www.facebook.com/DentaQuest and LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/dentaquest, and subscribe to our blog, Oral Health Matters at http://oralhealthmatters.blogspot.com/.