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Puerto Rico’s Give Kids A Smile efforts earn an official day

September 28, 2015

By David Burger


Designation day: Dr. David Bernier, secretary of state of Puerto Rico, presents a Give Kids a Smile proclamation. From left to right: Gilmartin Parés, regional sales manager, Henry Schein Puerto Rico; Dr. Ana N. López, Dean, University of Puerto Rico School of Dental Medicine; Dr. David Bernier, secretary of state, Puerto Rico; Uroyoán R. Walker, Ph.D., president, UPR; Noel Aymat, chancellor, UPR-Medical Sciences Campus; and Ms. Agnes Rivera, regional professional relations manager of Colgate-Palmolive Caribbean.
San Juan, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico celebrates Three Kings Day, Emancipation Day and Constitution Day.

It also now celebrates Give Kids A Smile Day.

Through a proclamation by the government, the first Thursday of February will be continually celebrated as an official day throughout the commonwealth.

Give Kids A Smile Day will coincide with large GKAS events organized by the School of Dental Medicine of the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan every year.

“We make sure we go all out,” said Dr. Ana N. López, dean of the dental school. “We make it a day to celebrate oral health.”

Dr. López, dean since last November, pursued the designation late last year. A scheduled February 2014 GKAS event would be the 10th anniversary of the dental school’s participation in the charitable event, so beforehand Dr. López wanted to do something special to commemorate the occasion.

Dr. López who has been in charge of organizing the event for the last 10 years in Puerto Rico, contacted the government, which had a unique representative receptive to the idea: Dr. David Bernier, secretary of state and a dentist himself, an alumnus of the dental school.

On Feb. 5, Dr. Bernier traveled to the dental school to issue a proclamation that the first Thursday of February would “from that day on” be Give Kids A Smile Day, Dr. López said. The university’s President Uroyoán R. Walker, Ph.D., and representatives from long-time sponsors of the Puerto Rico GKAS events, Colgate-Palmolive and Henry Schein, also attended the ceremony.

Plans have long been underway for the next GKAS event, Dr. López said. “Every year, we do something new,” she said. “We try to reinvent the day every year to capture the public’s attention.” Students are thinking of celebrating the day with a fair on campus, but one goal remains: serving more than 1,000 children who otherwise would not receive oral care, she said.

In Puerto Rico in 2015, more than 220 volunteers provided exams and education simultaneously at 11 sites organized throughout the island including the dental school. Continuing a tradition, the 2014 GKAS included an art contest and exposition from children who created drawings illustrating the importance of good oral health.

With the support of the ADA Foundation’s GKAS program, launched nationally by the ADA in 2003, more than 5 million underserved children have received free oral health services over the last 13 years. These free services are provided by about 10,000 dentists annually, along with 30,000 other dental team members.

For more information about GKAS, go to ADA.org and search for “GKAS” in the search engine.