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ADA remembers fallen dentist on World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day has extra meaning for the American Dental Association this year.

Image: Dr. Thomas Grams speaks with a patient in India
World humanitarian: Dr. Thomas Grams speaks with a patient in India, where he was volunteering with Global Dental Relief. Dr. Grams was killed last year while volunteering in Afghanistan with International Assistance Mission.

In 2008, the United Nations designated Aug. 19 of every year as World Humanitarian Day to honor those who volunteer as humanitarian workers across the globe. Aug. 19 was the date of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003, where 22 people were killed, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The global dedication day is to honor volunteers who are currently working around the world and to pay respect to those who have died or been injured while serving.

This year, the ADA remembers Dr. Thomas Grams, a retired Durango, Colo., dentist who was killed Aug. 5, 2010 by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Dr. Grams was in the war-torn country working as a volunteer dentist with International Assistance Mission, a nonprofit Christian organization that does medical, engineering, language, small business and community development projects in Afghanistan.

ADA Humanitarian Award nominations due Sept. 15

Do you know of an ADA member whose extraordinary volunteer efforts have made a difference in the U.S. and worldwide?

The Association is seeking nominations for the fifth annual ADA Humanitarian Award. Nomination materials must be postmarked on or before Sept. 15.

The award recognizes individual volunteer commitment and leadership over a period of at least 10 years that has had a broad impact on oral health and the improvement of the human condition. The award will be given to an ADA member dentist who has contributed to alleviate human suffering, demonstrated significant leadership, served as an inspiration to others and established a legacy that is of ongoing value and benefit to those in need both in the U.S. and abroad.

To nominate an ADA member, download the nomination packet at: or contact the ADA Division of Global Affairs at 1-312-440-2726 or

Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, the 2011 recipient and founder of the Haitian Health Foundation, will be honored Oct. 10 at the ADA’s 152nd Annual Session in Las Vegas. He will be recognized during the Opening General
Session and Distinguished Speaker Series program at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

The 2012 recipient will be honored at the 2012 Annual Session in San Francisco and receive a $5,000 donation to the charity of his/her choice.

“Dr. Tom Grams was the perfect example of what it means to be a humanitarian. He was truly selfless, and at just 50 years old, he gave up his dental practice to donate dental care full time and to dedicate himself to helping others less fortunate around the world,” said Dr. Quinn Dufurrena, executive director of the Colorado Dental Association. “His terribly tragic and untimely death, just a year ago, continues to be devastating to the dental community and his Colorado colleagues.  I cannot think of a finer individual to be honored on World Humanitarian Day.  His incredible compassion, bravery and passion for dentistry changed the lives of countless individuals.”

Dr. Grams also worked with Global Dental Relief, a Denver-based charitable organization that brings free dental care to impoverished children in Nepal, northern India, Guatemala and Vietnam, where he was the first volunteer. Dr. Mark Lisagor, who traveled with Dr. Grams to Kathmandu, Nepal and Ladakh, India, with Global Dental Relief, remembers the care his colleague took when working with children who had never seen a dentist before.

“Tom was the lead dentist, responsible for planning the treatment to be done and administering the local anesthetic in a comfortable and effective manner, allaying the children’s fears, building trust and making it so much easier for all of the dentists who would then provide the necessary treatment,” Dr. Lisagor said. “He did this up to 100 times a day, and I never saw him waiver in the calm way in which he would completely focus on every single patient.”

Dr. Grams eventually became the dental director for Global Dental Relief, going on 26 trips to Nepal and India.

To learn more about World Humanitarian Day, visit