Boston, MA, Aug. 24, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — DentaQuest, the nation’s leading purpose-driven oral health organization, today announced its 2020 Health Equity Heroes – Heroes in the Time of COVID-19. Now in its sixth year, the DentaQuest Health Equity Hero awards program celebrates individuals who are going above and beyond to expand access to equitable oral care and health care.  

“Coronavirus exposed stark truths about our nation’s long-standing health disparities, hitting low-income communities especially hard and highlighting gaps in health literacy, access to care and trust in our systems of care,” said DentaQuest President and CEO Steve Pollock. “DentaQuest is proud to once again highlight the outstanding work of individuals who are responding to the health challenges of our time. The 2020 Health Equity Heroes in the Age of COVID-19 are bright spots that give us a glimpse of our country’s potential for compassion and change.” 

In addition to celebrating and promoting the contributions of the 2020 Health Equity Heroes, DentaQuest is providing a $5,000 charitable contribution in the name of each hero to a nonprofit committed to promoting health equity.

The 2020 DentaQuest Health Equity Heroes in the Time of COVID-19 are:

Jeanette MacLean, DDS, DABPD, FAAPD, pediatric dentist-owner of Affiliated Children’s Dental Specialists, Arizona, an advocate for minimally invasive dentistry, used the time in March and April when many dental offices and dental schools closed due to COVID-19 to introduce her peers to effective techniques that arrest and treat decay with little or no aerosols. Dr. MacLean’s webinars and resources on social media channels are a guide for dental care professionals looking to adopt silver diamine fluoride (SDF), Icon Resin Infiltration and silver modified atraumatic restorative treatment (SMART). Dr. MacLean is supporting the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Foundation with her award.

Kyle Mullica, a member of the Colorado House of Representatives (Northglenn), husband, father and ER nurse, left home and family after the Colorado General Assembly suspended its session to work in the Cooke County Jail in Chicago during one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the city. Mullica spent five weeks at the jail, working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Rep. Mullica is directing his award to The Senior Hub (Northglenn, CO) and Ralston House (Arvada, CO).

Dr. Tim Garvey of the University of Florida College of Dentistry focused on access to dental care for individuals with disabilities and special health care needs — an underserved population that has had unique challenges during the pandemic. These patients need continued, routine oral health care, but their medical and physical state requires providers like Dr. Garvey to design modifications in delivery of care beyond the routine. Dr. Garvey is supporting FreeDOM Clinic of Marion County with his award.

Flavia Lamberghini, DDS, MS, MPH, FAAPD, pediatric dentist and UIC Clinical Assistant Professor, founded Apple Dental Care in Chicago to deliver trauma-informed dentistry for at-risk children regardless of socioeconomic status or coexisting medical and behavioral health conditions. During COVID-19, the care team helped stressed families connect to longer-term specialized help. Pre-COVID-19, Apple Dental Care provided in-school oral health care to more than 10,000 children a year at 36 Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Through the pandemic, it has been a referral site for CPS dental emergencies. Dr. Lamberghini is directing her award to the Apple Dental Care Foundation.

Dr. Katherine Collier is known as a trusted access point for culturally appropriate, quality dental care among low income, at-risk communities of color in East Baltimore and a teacher of preventive home dental care. During the worst of the pandemic, Dr. Collier continued seeing patients at Quest Dental and Spectrum Dental,  providing emergency care and pain management. That kept her patients, many of whom are essential workers managing multiple complex health issues, away from overcrowded hospital emergency departments. Dr. Collier asked that her award support the Black Mental Health Alliance.

Dr. Aidee Nieto-Herman’s passion to improve the oral health and wellbeing of the Hispanic community led her to establish the Massachusetts Hispanic Dental Association and the Hispanic International Mission. In addition to working as a periodontist and professor at Tufts University School of Dentistry during the pandemic, she launched a research project to understand “Heath Disparities as a Result of COVID-19” among underserved communities. Dr. Nieto-Herman is supporting the Hispanic International Mission with her award.

Bridget Hurd, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is a voice for community health and access to care on Governor Gretchen Witmer’s COVID-19 task force. Hurd is a longtime advocate and dedicated health professional intently solving challenges for individuals who are negatively impacted by disparities in health care. She believes disparities harm more than the groups living through the adversity; they also limit overall gains in quality of care and health for the broader population and result in unnecessary costs. Bridget is supporting Leaders Advancing Healthy Communities with her award.

Allie Young and peers helped create Protect the Sacred, a grassroots organization to protect Navajo Nation Elders, who were experiencing the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the U.S. As of Aug. 10, 9,315 people tested positive for the coronavirus and 473 died, a staggering toll for a population of 174,000 in Navajo Nation. Protect the Sacred is activating youth and young adults across Indian Country to step up as the next generation of Navajo leaders and protect Elders’ health, along with their language, medicine and culture. Allie is directing her award to Protect the Sacred.

Colleen McCauley and the team at Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) in Philadelphia are dedicated to helping children and families with programs and advocacy for health care, childcare, public education and family stability. As the pandemic closed schools and daycare centers and put parents either out of work or required them to work overtime at essential jobs, the PCCY team refocused to meet needs of distressed clients. They homed in on the health, legal and financial needs of these clients who had no savings, could not pay rent, had no means of replacing the meals children received at school or daycare and were often too scared to get necessary health care when ill. Colleen has asked that the award support the work of PCCY.

Representative Four Price, Texas House of Representatives, as Chair of the Select Committee on Mental Health, Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse, and Public Health and Appropriations Article II Subcommittees, successfully led efforts to fund and improve mental health services, expand telemedicine to meet needs in rural area medical clinics and schools, and educate communities on serious health issues. Access to care is improving in the state, thanks to support for telehealth and telemedicine along with funding to keep rural points of care open. With an eye to the future, Rep. Price supported public policy measures to grow the number of professionals in the health care workforce. Rep. Price is directing his award to the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo.

Sarah Bedard Holland and Virginia Health Catalyst quickly refocused from oral health advocacy to the needs of the dental care safety net and home care providers across Virginia. They sifted through the firehose of information and guidelines from the ADA, the State and the Virginia Dental Society to extract and share actionable nuggets — in multiple languages and formats — to guide front-line health workers in delivering quality care safely. As it looks ahead to the next phase of COVID-19, Virginia Health Catalyst is widening its framework of action to advocate for policies that reinforce the importance of structural, moral and social determinants of health, all of which sit beneath the surface of lifelong health, equity and social justice. Sarah designated Housing Families First for her award.

Dr. Ritika Chandra of Community Health Center of Snohomish County, Wash., rapidly stood up a teledentistry program as the pandemic hit her county. Teledentistry visits kept high-risk patients who needed immediate dental care away from overtaxed hospital emergency departments. The Health Center is the core of the county’s health care safety net, serving families who face financial barriers, limited health literacy, limited transportation and childcare, and significant dental anxiety.

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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 www.DentaQuest.com and follow us on Twitter @DentaQuest, Facebook www.facebook.com/DentaQuest, Instagram @Inside_DentaQuest, and LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/company/DentaQuest.

Tom O’Rourke
Head of Corporate Communications
978.992.1750
thomas.orourke@greatdentalplans.com


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