Join ADAMember Log In

ADA Presents First Humanitarian Award at 149th Annual Session

Dental profession honors Thomas S. Underwood, D.D.S., in San Antonio

Contact Information:

Telephone: 312-440-2806
E-mail: (Journalists) or Contact ADA (All Others)

CHICAGO, October 2, 2008—The American Dental Association (ADA) will honor its first ADA Humanitarian Award recipient at its 149th Annual Session and World Marketplace Exhibition in San Antonio. The ADA Board of Trustees selected Thomas S. Underwood, D.D.S., of Nashville, Tenn., for his three decades of providing humanitarian efforts to people in need of dental care.

"I am delighted that Dr. Underwood is the first recipient of the new and very prestigious ADA Humanitarian award," said ADA President Mark J. Feldman, D.M.D. "He has truly brought smiles and comfort to thousands of needy individuals through his tireless efforts and has set the bar very high."

Dr. Underwood is scheduled to be honored at an awards ceremony during the ADA's 149th Annual Session on Friday, Oct. 17, from 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Alamodome, 100 Montana St.

A 1970 graduate of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry, Dr. Underwood performed humanitarian efforts around the world for nearly 20 years. In addition, Dr. Underwood has made vast contributions to the oral health of those in Tennessee.

"It's an honor to be the recipient of the inaugural Humanitarian Award," Dr. Underwood said. "After volunteering in Israel, Jamaica, Honduras, Kenya and Zambia, I realized how many people were suffering from lack of comprehensive oral care in my own state. I knew there was something we could do to make it better right here at home."

With support from the Nashville Dental Society and the outreach commission of the West End United Methodist Church, Dr. Underwood founded the Nashville Interfaith Dental Clinic in 1994. The Humanitarian Award gives Dr. Underwood $1,500 to donate to the clinic which provides comprehensive dental care on a sliding scale to working low-income families who don't have dental insurance.

In the mid-1990s, Dr. Underwood worked with state legislators and the TennCare Medicaid oversight committee to develop a dental care model that has more than 850 dentists statewide treating TennCare children from birth through age 20. The program, which launched in 2002, has been recognized nationally as a model program for other states.

Dr. Underwood, a general dentist in solo practice, is married and the father of a son and daughter.

The ADA Humanitarian Award was established in 2007 to annually honor an ADA member for outstanding contributions that impact oral health and improve the oral health of underserved populations.

The ADA's Annual Session is expected to draw more than 30,000 dental professionals to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio on Oct. 16–Oct. 19.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website