12:12 PM

A Celebration of Diversity: The Multicultural Oral Health Summit

Guest post by Carmen Fields, DentaQuest Foundation Associate Director National Programs

Despite coming from different backgrounds and experiences, it was clear the hundreds of attendees at the Multicultural Oral Health Summitall shared a common vision: increased access to quality oral health services and improvement of oral health for all.

The first-ever joint convention of The Hispanic DentalAssociation(HDA), National Dental Association (NDA) and Society of American Indian Dentists (SAID) took place in sunny Boca Raton, Florida last month. I joined global health leaders, corporate partners, community leaders, foundations and others from all over the nation to discuss ways to “collectively meet the needs of a diverse population to improve oral health.”

The Summit began Friday (July 20) with a powerfully symbolic prayer by Dr. George Blue Spruce, founder of the SAID, and a posting of Latin American Flags by two dozen members of the HDA. The musical interludes during the opening program were especially refreshing, featuring a flute player from the Seminole Tribe of Floridaand a gospel ensemble from the area.

I attended the Summit on behalf of the DentaQuest Foundation, which was recognized during the Summit’s opening ceremony for its ongoing support of the three multicultural dental organizations and for its commitment to improving oral health in underserved and diverse populations. I was joined by Fay Donohue, DentaQuest CEO and Foundation board member, who accepted the award. By collaborating with the HDA, NDA and SAID, the Foundation continues to help promote public policy and other initiatives to support optimal oral health for everyone.

The Foundation sponsored the Summit’s two-part President’s Symposium. The first presentation was rich and layered, with powerful presentations by University of Connecticut’s Associate Clinical Professor Sarita Arteaga, Foundation board member and Oral Health Alliance founder Caswell Evans, and Dr. Spruce. Dr. Joan Y. Reeve of Harvard Medical School was a terrific moderator, who framed the meeting as a provocative restating of the issues of health, focusing directly on dental care disparities. DentaQuest Foundation President, Ralph Fuccillo facilitated a presentation on how to improve oral health access. Take-away points from the discussions will become the basis for future messaging and an eventual strategy plan aimed to improve overall oral health care access.

While I attended many of the events at the Summit, two events in particular were unforgettable. At the Annual Women Dentists’ Awards Brunch (July 21), I had the pleasure of sitting with the founder of this symposium event, Dr. Marie Holliday of Dallas, TX, a Boston University and Tufts Dental School graduate. The group was organized to address the needs and concerns of African American female practitioners—and highlight and recognize their work. I also enjoyed The Civil Rights Luncheon, held Monday (July 23), which paid tribute to individuals who have fought for the civil rights and liberties of under-represented Americans throughout history. Orrin D. Mitchell, DDS, who helped pioneer in the fight against racial discrimination when he sought membership in the segregated Yacht club of Jacksonville, Fla. and Tom Joyner, whose syndicated radio show has been encouraging good health (and now hopefully oral health) practices were awarded Civil Rights Awards. I was honored to be in the presence of so many distinguished leaders.

This historical event changed my perspective and made me hopeful for the future of oral health. Collectively, I have witnessed, that we can make a difference and help create brighter smiles for people of all walks of life.