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Give Kids A Smile ambassadors assemble

Event coordinators learn how to initiate, expand or enhance their programs at Institute

November 16, 2016

By David Burger


Coming together: The ambassadors of the 2016 Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Development Institute pose for a group picture in St. Louis in October. Front row, top to bottom, are Dana Wood, Dr. Martha Forero, Tracy Ginder, Nary Lor and Tiffany Summerlin. Back row, top to bottom, are Dr. Courtney Barrett, Dr. Niekia M. Franklin, Keshia Brinkerhoff, Samantha Reinhard, Hannah Boudreaux, Charmaine Davis, Maureen Barlow and Adam Saltz.
St. Louis — The city known as the Gateway to the West is home to the Arch, the Cardinals and its own unique style of barbecue.

It also  has been the site of the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Development Institute since 2011. This was the sixth year of the program, which convened Oct 26-29. It was once again sponsored by Henry Schein Cares and Hu-Friedy.

Each Fall, about a dozen GKAS program coordinators from across the United States congregate to learn how to initiate, expand or enhance their programs from Dr. Jeff Dalin, co-founder of St. Louis GKAS and member of the ADA Foundation GKAS national committee, and his team. The ambassadors are invited to St. Louis to observe the longest-running GKAS event in the nation, and they gain hands-on experience and learn best practices regarding how to improve their existing program.

The Institute held special significance as the Foundation is spurring efforts to celebrate GKAS's 15th anniversary in 2017.

"We love bringing GKAS program coordinators from around the country to experience firsthand what we have developed," Dr. Dalin said. "There is nothing better than actually working side by side with all of our volunteers. We want these new GKAS ambassadors to return home to their programs energized and ready to integrate new ideas and take their programs to new heights."

The 12 ambassadors were a combination of dentists, hygienists, dental students, and other dental professionals:

  • Maureen Barlow, New Jersey Dental Association, North Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • Dr. Courtney Barrett, Oklahoma Care Authority, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • Hannah Boudreaux, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry chapter at Louisiana State University, Metairie, Louisiana.
  • Keshia Brinkerhoff, Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming, Casper, Wyoming.
  • Charmaine Davis, Wings of A Dove Foundation, Brooklyn.
  • Dr. Martha Forero, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, pediatric dentistry department, Boston.
  • Dr. Niekia Franklin, Indiana University/Riley Children's Hospital, Indianapolis.
  • Nary Lor, Community Dental Care, Maplewood, Minnesota.
  • Samantha Reinhard, Sun Life Health Center, Casa Grande, Arizona.
  • Adam Saltz, Nova Southeastern University, Davie, Florida.
  • Tiffany Summerlin, Monogalia County Health Department, Morgantown, West Virginia.
  • Dana Wood, Binn College Dental Hygiene Program, Bryan, Texas.
The three-day institute consisted of lectures and sharing sessions and culminated with a St. Louis GKAS clinic event, where 386 children received $315,000 worth of care.

The ambassadors were thankful for the opportunity to learn more so that they can go back and not only enhance their own programs but also share their expertise with other GKAS program coordinators in their respective areas of the country.

"Attending the GKAS Institute was an amazing opportunity," said Ms. Boudreaux. "As a dental student at LSU Health School of Dentistry in New Orleans, it was exciting to see the amount of dental care provided to children in need in only two days. Sharing information from the Institute will provide LSU many ways to successfully expand our already successful GKAS program."

"The Institute was an excellent opportunity to witness firsthand how the St. Louis GKAS program was executed — both behind the scenes and live during the actual event," said Dr. Barrett. "It also provided a chance to engage with individuals across the country who are responsible for their own GKAS programs. I look forward to bringing what I learned back  to Oklahoma City to implement for the benefit of children in my own community."

Ms. Barlow said, "The Institute is an impactful experience offering ambassadors an opportunity to share experiences, concerns and successes. Ambassadors cannot help but take away ideas and enthusiasm to enhance their existing or developing programs. Personally the experience has enriched my life and I've gained a new family of colleagues."

The 2017 GKAS Institute application period will open in April.

You can learn more about the Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Institute by visiting ADAFoundation.org and entering "GKAS Institute" into the search engine.

Give Kids A Smile will commemorate its 15th anniversary in 2017. The Foundation is encouraging program coordinators  to join the celebration by going to ADAFoundation.org to find promotional resources, such as banner ads that can be used on dental practices' websites, for example.

The official 2017 GKAS national kickoff day is Feb. 3, but GKAS events can be held throughout the year.