Community Dental Health Coordinator honored for helping kids get dental care
May 23, 2016
— Lisa Flatt knows her work has meaning, but perhaps not more so than when she meets children in a clinic or facility who have never had their own toothbrush.
"They either have to share one, or don’t have one,” said Ms. Flatt, a Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) for the Chickasaw Nation Ardmore Health Clinic. “This breaks my heart. I say ‘I will give you a toothbrush, floss and mouthwash.’ The look on a child’s face that receives a gift is priceless.”
For her work as a CDHC, Ms. Flatt was honored in May with an Influential Hero award from The Chickasaw Nation, a federally recognized Native American nation. The nation cited her “passion for outreach in our community,” including ensuring dental care for hundreds of children, providing education to parents and children at the local Head Start program, securing grants and donations and coordinating an onsite mobile unit visit with help from the Oklahoma Dental Foundation.
The ADA in 2006 helped launch the Community Dental Health Coordinator program, partnering since then with colleges for a program that trains people to help respond to the need for oral health literacy and access to preventive and restorative care among underserved populations, including places like where Ms. Flatt works — Native American nations and reservations. These coordinators can help patients bridge such barriers as poverty, geography, language, culture and a lack of understanding of oral hygiene.
Today, seven CDHC training programs exist, or are preparing to launch, in the U.S.
Ms. Flatt, who graduated in 2012 from a CDHC program at the University of Oklahoma, spends much of her time in the dental clinic on The Chickasaw Nation, but also travels to Head Start programs and other children’s education centers, helping educate youth about oral health, including tobacco and other health-related topics.
“I have always had a passion to help the underserved,” said Ms. Flatt, who worked in private practice dentistry as a dental assistant for 12 years before becoming a CDHC.
Ms. Flatt said she is committed to her current role.
“I’m honored to receive (the award), but it does not affect the way I look at my job or continue to do my CDHC job,” she said. “I plan on educating and getting Native Americans access to care. I have committed to making a difference.”
For more information about CDHC programs, visit ADA.org/CDHC