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Who's Making a Difference in Oral Health?

When you think about major improvements that have occurred in your local community, they are often due to the innovative actions and tireless dedication of key individuals. Can you think of a local leader working to improve your community? We can.

As we work across the nation to improve oral health care, access and education, we have seen outstanding leaders in local communities who are making significant strides in improving the oral health of all.

With that in mind, this year we established the DentaQuest Health Equity Hero Awards to celebrate the efforts of leaders who are working tirelessly to address health equity and providing vital care to underserved communities. This year, we recognized seven people for their work.

We’d like to tell you a little more about these outstanding heroes, why they were selected and what they are doing for their communities:

  • Kevin Earle, M.B.A., M.P.H. is the executive director of the Arizona Dental Association in Phoenix, Ariz. Earle is the one of the principal organizers and supporters of the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative. He is working with tribal leaders to raise awareness of oral health and bring it to the forefront of policy discussions within the community and at the state level. Earle is also a leading advocate and voice for the restoration of Medicaid dental benefits for adults in Arizona.
  • Ana Palomo-Zerfas is a migrant health and community engagement program manager for the Vista Community Clinic in San Diego, Calif. In this role, she 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 health and dental care. This outreach and advocacy work connects more than 5,700 migrant workers and their families to care every year.
  • At the University of Louisville, David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D. is the executive vice president for health affairs. Dr. Dunn, a highly-respected transplant surgeon, has been a leading advocate for coupling dental and 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.
  • As a program manager for Prince George’s County Health Department, Debony Hughes, D.D.S, F.I.C.D., works with the dental health program to better serve Maryland residents. 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. is a project manager for the community education and empowerment directorate at UNITED SIKHS, a United Nations-affiliated civil and human rights organization, in New York, N.Y. Dr. Kavathe is a strong advocate for health equity and social justice at UNITED SIKHS and 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. is a dean and professor at Meharry Medical College – School of Dentistrybased in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Farmer-Dixon has been training dentists who aim to serve high-need urban and rural communities for the past 25 years. She also leads research on oral health disparities, the impact of dental disease on low-income children, and inter-professional community outreach and interventions.
  • At the AIDS Interfaith Network’s(AIN) Manos Unidas, Edgar Carmona serves as the associate executive director. 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 dental programs and services.

The selection of our 2015 Health Equity Heroes coincides with 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. With that in mind, along with their award, our 2015 Health Equity Heroes also will receive a donation from our Citizenship Fund toward a non-profit of their choice that is committed to promoting health equity. DentaQuest is proud to award these heroes for their incredible work!