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Ambassadors from nine states learn to Give Kids A Smile, St. Louis style

GKAS Institute creates bonds, expands knowledge base

November 01, 2012

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

St. Louis—In the city where it all began, 10 Give Kids A Smile Program ambassadors gathered to brainstorm, share concerns and develop solutions to fine tune their GKAS events at the 2012 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute sponsored by Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein Cares and the ADA Foundation.

2012 GKAS ambassadors: St. Louis GKAS staff welcome Community Leadership Development Institute participants to their office Oct. 25. Pictured are, front row, from left: Alyssa Cuquet, GKAS staff; Dr. Meelin Dian Chin Kit-Wells, Buffalo, N.Y.; center row: Patti Durbin, GKAS administrative assistant; Dr. Amber Weems, Dallas; Monica Chavez, 2011 GKAS ambassador, Tri-County (Calif.) Dental Society; Dr. Sara Kalambur, Upper Montclair, N.J.; Lisa Bahr, Waukesha, Wis.; Shawna Rohner, Hillsboro, Ore; back row: Joan Allen, GKAS executive director; Judith Zirkle, Bridgeton, N.J.; Stephanie McCray, Kansas City, Mo.; Erica Gregory, Elizabeth City, N.C.; Julie Vaughn, Gainesville, Ga., and Ana Gomez, Burbank, Calif.

Ambassadors’ challenges and needs were as varied as their programs and locations, but they spent three and a half days Oct. 24-27 finding common ground, sharing successful strategies, throwing out their challenges for suggestions from fellow ambassadors and St. Louis GKAS experts and developing plans for future GKAS activities. They spent their time, including lunches and breaks, talking GKAS and becoming each others’ newest Facebook friends to keep in touch after returning home.

Dr. Jeff Dalin, co-founder of GKAS St. Louis and the chair of the ADA’s Give Kids A Smile National Advisory Committee, greeted the ambassadors at a welcome dinner Oct. 24.

“We are here to help you answer questions, to show you our St. Louis program in action and to help you find strategies to continue to build a successful, sustainable program that meets your community’s needs,” Dr. Dalin said. “Ask questions, share ideas and observe. After this experience you will be able to serve as an ambassador and a valuable resource for other GKAS programs.”

The ambassadors came to the intensive workshop with a summary of how their programs worked and objectives on where they’d like to improve.

Lisa Bahr, clinic coordinator at the Waukesha County (Wis.) Community Dental Clinic, said her program works collaboratively with the Waukesha Dental Society, schools and school nurses to reach middle school and high school kids who’ve never seen a dentist before.

“We’ve been open for four years and we are getting younger patients, but we use our GKAS to reach older kids.”

Translator and friend: GKAS ambassador Ana Gomez of Burbank, Calif., escorts a young Spanish-speaking patient through his GKAS exam and treatment process.
Ms. Bahr said because of the clinic’s size limitations, they can only schedule 40 children identified by school nurses as having dental problems or never having seen a dentist. They maximize efficiency by scheduling hygiene and comprehensive exams the first Friday in February and scheduling restorations, endo and oral surgery the following Friday.

“This keeps our volunteer dentists busy and we can usually complete all the kids’ treatment,” she said. “This year 33 of our 40 GKAS kids needed care, some very extensive. And we were able to give everyone comprehensive care.”

Dr. Meelin Dian Chin Kit-Wells, University at Buffalo (New York) School of Dental Medicine, said her program is large and she is hoping to find strategies that enhance the flow of the 500-600 kids who participate each year, from recruiting, organizing and orienting volunteers to securing funding to cover program costs.

About 350 of her participants are Head Start students aged 3-5 who receive health education and comfort through a “teddy bear clinic.” Children circulate through a health fair with a teddy bear. Volunteers demonstrate health screenings on the bears, which become gifts for the young participants.

“We may not be able to give teddy bears this year because our donor’s budget is more limited,” she said. “So we may have to use a few oversized bears for demonstration and give a more affordable gift to the kids.”

The Buffalo program has also developed a Gateway Program, a school-based program that treats kids in need all year.

Dr. Sara Kalambur, program director for the KinderSmile Foundation in Upper Montclair, N.J., said her organization’s mission is to reach underserved children with dental care and oral health education and to link them to a dental home.

Translator and friend: GKAS ambassador Ana Gomez of Burbank, Calif., escorts a young Spanish-speaking patient through his GKAS exam and treatment process.

KinderSmile Foundation was the recipient of a 2012 American Dental Association Foundation Give Kids A Smile Continuity of Care grant. The grant is intended to help the program continue its work and to focus on helping children establish a dental home where they can return for ongoing care. The Continuity of Care grants are made possible by funding provided to the ADA Foundation by CareCredit Corp.

KinderSmile doesn’t have a brick and mortar dental clinic, she explained. The organization rents a local church for its February GKAS event that provides about 250 children with exams, prophies and fluoride varnish; oral health and nutrition education; entertainment; dental care products and a healthy lunch. Eligible families also receive assistance in signing up for Medicaid and finding a dental home.

“I have learned so much here that can help,” she said. “Besides our February event, we go to about 20 sites each year at Head Start and child care facilities where we see between 20 and 50 children at each site. I came here hoping to learn to organize these events and delegate some of our tasks to our volunteer dentists.”

Monica Chavez, a 2011 GKAS Institute ambassador, also attended to give this year’s participants an overview of the changes she was able to implement in the Tri-County (Calif.) Dental Society GKAS program during the past year.

Other 2012 participants were:

  • Ana Gomez, Burbank, Calif.;
  • Erica Gregory, Elizabeth City, N.C.;
  • Stephanie McCray, Kansas City, Mo.;
  • Shawna Rohner, Hillsboro, Ore.;
  • Julie Vaughn, Gainesville, Ga.;
  • Dr. Amber Weems, Dallas;
  • Judith Zirkle, Bridgeton, N.J.

Hands-on learning: GKAS ambassador Dr. Meelin Dian Chin Kit-Wells of Buffalo, N.Y., applies fluoride varnish on a child’s teeth at the Give Kids A Smile clinic in St. Louis Oct. 26.

Each participant received resource materials covering every aspect involved in planning and expanding a GKAS program. Grants from sponsors also covered ambassadors’ travel and housing costs as well as some meals. GKAS Institute program sponsors include Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein Cares, and the ADA Foundation.

“Hu-Friedy is so proud to be a sponsor of the Give Kids A Smile Institute,” states Patrick Bernardi, vice president of global brand marketing and communications. “Our mission at Hu-Friedy is to improve lives through better dentistry—smile after smile, so there is incredible synergy between that mission and the tremendous work being done by GKAS. Social responsibility and community engagement are the very heart of our corporate values and we salute everyone involved with GKAS who demonstrates that when you have the courage to care, you can make a real difference.”

“GKAS is an incredible program focused on giving back to the community and kids in need,” said Barbara Burkart-Christain, global brand manager for Henry Schein. “Henry Schein Cares is all about doing well by doing good, so supporting a cause as meaningful as GKAS is a perfect fit for us and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

These supporting grants are made by the companies through the ADA Foundation, a partnership that highlights the collaborative nature of how the ADAF can foster improved oral health and corporate good will, said Dr. David Whiston, president, ADAF Board of Directors.

Clinic volunteer: GKAS ambassador Judith Zirkle of Bridgeton, N.J., helps a patient choose stickers for her dental chart.

“We are very proud of our long association with Henry Schein and welcome the chance to partner with them and Hu-Friedy to support this very important program,” Dr. Whiston said. “It furthers our mission components of improving access to care and education.”

On Oct. 26 and 27, ambassadors observed and served as volunteers at the St. Louis fall GKAS program at St. Louis University Center for Advanced Dental Education, where volunteers provided more than $400,000 in services to 525 children. The program provides free dental care and education to hundreds of children from low-income families twice a year. Since it was founded in February 2002, the program has provided more than $4.6 million in dental care for 10,630 patients (before the October 2012 clinic).

Dr. Tom Flavin, president of the St. Louis GKAS board of directors and a general dentist in St. Louis Hills, said he is proud to welcome the institute ambassadors to the biannual program.

“Since 2002, our program has become a well-oiled machine,” said Dr. Flavin. “Our first clinic was in an old clinic building scheduled for demolition, and we had to bring in a lot of chairs and equipment. But even then, I knew we had started something special.”

Post-treatment fun: GKAS ambassadors Lisa Bahr, Julie Vaughn and Erica Gregory (in purple shirts, from left) teach kids how to do the Chicken Dance.