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Winners recognized for work bringing oral health to underserved communities

BOSTON – In an effort to raise awareness and the need for collective action to improve oral health nationwide, DentaQuest established the Health Equity Hero Awards to celebrate the efforts of local leaders championing the cause.
More than 83 million people in the United States face barriers to dental care. These barriers are most significant for those who experience health disparities based on race, age, income level, language, health literacy or geographic isolation.  
“Connecting people with care is what we do at DentaQuest. It is important work, but we do not do this alone. When you think of the challenges many people across the U.S. face to achieve access and care, the work of our seven Health Equity Heroes is important and remarkable,” said Steve Pollock, President and CEO of DentaQuest. “Our 2015 Health Equity Heroes are raising awareness and creating opportunities for better health. We are honored to have them as allies and advocates working on behalf of underserved populations across the country.”
The 2015 Health Equity Heroes are:
Kevin Earle, M.B.A., M.P.H., Executive Director of the Arizona Dental Association (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Earle is the one of the principal organizers and supporters of the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative. He is bringing oral health issues among Native Americans to the forefront of policy discussions both at the state and tribal levels, and is a leading advocate for restoration of Medicaid dental benefits for adults in Arizona.

Ana Palomo-Zerfas, Migrant Health and Community Engagement Program Manager for Vista Community Clinic (San Diego, Calif.)

Palomo-Zerfas leads the clinic’s efforts to help migrant workers in San Diego County overcome cultural and linguistic barriers that make it hard for them to get the health and dental care they need. This outreach and advocacy work connects more than 5,700 migrant workers and their families to care every year.

David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, University of Louisville (Louisville, Ky.)

Dr. Dunn, a highly-respected transplant surgeon, has been a leading advocate for coupling dental coverage with medical coverage to ensure enhanced overall health. Throughout his career, Dr. Dunn has pushed for innovative care delivery systems. As a health care leader in Kentucky, he strives to make quality dental care affordable for underserved communities in the state.

Debony Hughes, D.D.S, F.I.C.D., Program Manager, Prince George’s County Health Department, Dental Health Program (Cheverly, Md.)

Not only is Dr. Hughes an important voice for oral health throughout Prince George’s County, she is also responsible for the operation of the Deamonte Driver Mobile Unit, which provides education and dental treatments to 20 Title I schools and to Head Start programs, serving more than 10,000 students in Prince George’s County. This school-based care is leading to better oral health outcomes for children and their families. 

Rucha Kavathe, Ph.D., Project Manager for the Community Education and Empowerment Directorate at UNITED SIKHS (New York, N.Y.)

Dr. Kavathe is a strong advocate for health equity and social justice at UNITED SIKHS, a United Nations-affiliated civil and human rights organization. She is addressing the health challenges immigrants face as they adjust to their new surroundings, particularly when it comes to navigating the U.S. healthcare system. UNITED SIKHS is making progress within its community to reduce chronic disease and improve oral health.

Cherae Farmer-Dixon, D.D.S., M.S.P.H., F.A.C.D., Dean and Professor at Meharry Medical College – School of Dentistry (Nashville, Tenn.)

A highly-respected public health dentist, Dr. Farmer-Dixon has been training dentists who aim to serve in high-need urban and rural communities for the past 25 years. She also leads research on oral health disparities, dental disease in low-income children, and inter-professional community outreach and interventions. She is both a role model and leading advocate for public health dentistry in Tennessee.

Edgar Carmona, Associate Executive Director, AIDS Interfaith Network’s (AIN) Manos Unidas (Dallas, Texas)

Carmona coordinates the Binational Health Week in North Texas, a health mobilization effort serving the Americas. He is working to educate Spanish-speaking residents on the importance of oral health, and the ways they can access the dental programs and services available to them.

The selection of the 2015 Health Equity Heroes is in recognition of National Minority Health Month, an effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health to advance health equity for racial and ethnic minorities.
Each honoree will receive a donation from DentaQuest’s Citizenship Fund toward a non-profit 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 and its educational DentaQuest Institute, its mission is to improve the oral health of all. Follow DentaQuest on Twitter @dentaquest and Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/DentaQuest, and subscribe to our blog, Oral Health Matters at: http://oralhealthmatters.blogspot.com/