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DentaQuest Announces 2019 Health Equity Heroes

National Oral Health Leader Shines a Light on Heroic Efforts of Change-Makers in Seven States

Health Equity Heroes

DentaQuest, the purpose-driven oral health company dedicated to improving the oral health of all, today announced the 2019 DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes, six individuals and a team, who are breaking down barriers and improving health for at-risk individuals in seven states.

Now in its fifth year, the DentaQuest Health Equity Hero awards program celebrates and promotes grassroots work that expands access to health care and prevents disease. The 2019 honorees are unsung heroes. They work quietly and steadily in unexpected and often hard-to-reach places to relieve dental pain and suffering while also increasing oral health literacy and improving care options for some of our least visible and most vulnerable neighbors.

“Too many Americans lack access to quality care or cannot afford the care they do get,” said Steve Pollock, President and CEO of DentaQuest. “Our recent research shows that while oral health is a top personal health concern, one in three Americans lack dental insurance and three in four patients have experienced barriers to care.”

“These barriers range from lack of transportation or child care, which limit or prevent visits to dentists, to lack of providers in the area and difficulty finding a dentist that speaks your language or understands your culture,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, Chief Impact Officer for DentaQuest. “I’m inspired by the work our 2019 heroes are doing to help people overcome these obstacles in their communities and am proud to help share their stories.”

The 2019 DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes are:

Alabama’s Head Start Programs, Alabama

Head Start teams across Alabama are working to ensure Alabama’s low-income children get a good start for school but they are also making sure the children and their families and caregivers get the health care, education and social services they need. Alabama Head Start is making the case that daily dental care should be a new standard for schools because when a child’s mouth health suffers, so does his or her ability to stay focused and learn. Head Start children and their teachers brush their teeth together every day and local dentists visit classrooms to talk about oral health and provide preventive dental screenings.

Dr. Kathleen Barlow, Mission Smiles, Hillsborough County, Florida

Dr. Barlow spends her weekdays caring for underserved populations as a dentist at a federally qualified community health center (FQHC) in Hillsborough County. On weekends, she travels the county as a volunteer with Mission Smiles Mobile Dental Clinic, bringing oral health care to men and women living in poverty, often on the streets. Launched in 2011, the nonprofit partners with churches, ministries and daycare centers to bring mobile dental clinics to homeless and low-income populations in the Tampa Bay area.

Dennis Borel, Executive Director of Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Austin, Texas

As head of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Dennis Borel is leading the charge in Texas to ensure adults with disabilities have access to the preventive oral health care they need. For the last five years, Borel has championed legislation to enable access to preventive dental services for Medicaid-eligible adults with disabilities. Earlier this year, the State of Texas agreed to run a pilot program, adding preventive dental benefits for adults with disabilities to the state statutes.

Tee Lawton, Mount Hope Housing Company, Bronx, New York

As Director of Community Relations at the Mount Hope Housing Company, Tee Lawton meets with community boards and government officials and oversees community outreach to fulfill the organization’s mission “to sustain affordable housing.” Lawton also knows it takes more than just physical housing to build a true community and is creating opportunities for people without the means or the knowledge to access the health system. Through his work, he strives to ensure Mount Hope has the social services its residents need: ESL and GED classes, back-to-school fundraisers, and health services and education.

Alicia Murria, Hygienists for Humanity, Maryland

Inspired by a homeless group she spotted under a bridge that she passed on a 5K walk, Alicia Murria founded Hygienists for Humanity. The nonprofit provides homeless and other underserved communities across the U.S. with access to dental care and hygiene products through mission work. At industry conferences, Murria noted the number of exhibitors who were giving away oral hygiene products and toothbrushes to avoid the cost of shipping them back to their home bases and seized the opportunity to help put these products to work in the local community.

Dr. Neetu Singh, Health Care for All, Massachusetts

Dr. Singh began her career as a dentist but quickly redirected her expertise to work in public policy after witnessing firsthand disparities among patients seeking oral health care. Singh now serves as the Oral Health Program Director at Health Care for All Massachusetts, where she advocates “further upstream” for underserved populations by introducing bills related to medical-dental integration and working with the state legislature to get them passed.

Michelle Vacha, Community Dental Health, Colorado Springs, Colorado

In 2006, this Colorado Springs-based hygienist founded Community Dental Health to bring compassionate dental hygiene care into nursing homes through inventive mobile services. She now operates full-service clinics in underserved regions of the state. Aided by a team of dentists and denture technicians, she provides preventive care for place-bound seniors in nursing homes, veterans and other vulnerable populations. Vacha is working to achieve improved access and outcomes in her own community, while working to make preventive dental care more broadly available.

In addition to recognizing and promoting the contributions of the DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes, DentaQuest provides charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations committed to promoting health equity and identified by each of the heroes.

About DentaQuest

DentaQuest is a purpose-driven oral health care company dedicated to improving the oral health of all. We do this through Preventistry® – our all-in approach to better care, expanded access, value-based financing, and innovative solutions. We manage dental and vision benefits for 27+ million Americans and provide direct patient care through our network of more than 85 oral health centers in 5 states. We provide outcomes-based, cost-effective dental solutions for Medicaid and CHIP, Medicare Advantage, small and large businesses, and individuals nationwide. And, we've invested more than $200 million in grants and programs to achieve measurably healthier communities across the country. By advancing prevention-focused oral health, we will achieve better overall health for everyone. Learn more at and follow us on social: Twitter @DentaQuest, Facebook, Instagram @Inside_DentaQuest, and LinkedIn