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After GKAS/NASCAR event, Baylor 'adopts' elementary school

November 03, 2014

by Kimber Solana

image of student from Our Lady of Perpetual Help
GKAS hits the track: Students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary and middle school in Dallas pose for a photo April 4 at Texas Motor Speedway. About 125 students came for a day of oral health education and racing fun as part of the GKAS/NASCAR oral health education initiative. Since then, students and faculty at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry have "adopted" the students to ensure they receive dental care and maintain good oral health.
Dallas —
When about 125 kids from Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary and middle school visited Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, it was supposed to be just a one-day oral health educational event as part of the Give Kids A Smile/NASCAR oral health education initiative.

The students and faculty at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, however, had other plans.

"We realized there was so much more we could do for the kids," said Dr. Daniel Jones, chair of Baylor's Department of Public Health Sciences.

"In shorthand, what we're saying is 'We're adopting the school,'" he said.

As a result of the relationship formed between the two schools through the GKAS/NASCAR program, Baylor has decided to help ensure all of the students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Catholic school in the west side of Dallas, receive dental care and maintain good oral health.

"Our dental students benefit by going out into the community and seeing more patients," Dr. Jones said. "And (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) school was so grateful with the opportunity. We didn't want our partnership to be a one-time deal."

Dr. Jones said they've added the school to their school-based sealant program where dental students visit elementary schools in the Dallas area and provide dental sealants to about 2,500 second- and third-graders.

In addition, Baylor dental students will visit at least once a year to conduct screenings to the elementary and middle school's entire student body.

And, as of early June, Baylor has partnered with North Dallas Shared Ministries Clinic — which is run by various churches — to bolster the clinic's dental facility. Previously, the dental clinic was only open about two days a month.

With the help of Baylor, Shared Ministries received new dental clinic equipment, and volunteer fourth-year students and pediatric dentistry faculty will help keep the clinic open five days a week, eight hours a day. The clinic is anticipated to see up to 5,000 patients a year.

Among those patients visiting the clinic could be the students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and their family members who need additional treatment resulting from the sealant and screening visits. Dr. Jones said the clinic would be equipped to provide basic pediatric dentistry and restorative services — any services that won't require laboratory procedures including dentures, crowns and bridges.

"We're a very poor school, and many of our students come from less affluent families," said Thomas Collins, principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. "We are so pleased for what Baylor is doing and very happy for our kids."

 The two schools first connected after Oral Health America contacted Dr. Jones about assisting in a GKAS/NASCAR oral health education program. The program reaches some 300,000 children annually in conjunction with 11 NASCAR races.
Baylor dental students helped chaperone the 125 students who came to Texas Motor Speedway for education sessions on good dental health and cavity prevention, while also getting a chance to view NASCAR driver Greg Biffle's 3M No. 16 car which displayed the GKAS logo and meeting Mr. Biffle and his crew chief Matt Puccia.

"Relationships were built between the faculty at Baylor and the administrators at Our Lady of Perpetual Help over the course of the weekend that developed into Baylor offering to become the dental home for the students of Our Lady of Perpetual Help," said John Stefanick, director of industry relations at 3M ESPE Dental Division and GKAS National Advisory Committee vice chair.

"This is truly a win/win for both schools and a sign of things to come with the GKAS/NASCAR program. We hope more dental schools follow the lead of Baylor School of Dentistry and provide this much needed care for children in their local areas."

Mr. Collins said the school can't afford to take many field trips.

"When this opportunity came up, we couldn't say no," he said. "The kids had a terrific day at the race track. They couldn't stop talking about it days after the event."

Dr. Jones said Baylor planned to conduct screenings at Our Lady of Perpetual Help  this summer. This fall, they'll return to the elementary school for their sealant program. By then, the North Dallas Shared Ministries Clinic dental facility should be ready to see any of the elementary school's students who need additional treatment.

"For over 10 years, the Give Kids A Smile Program has been pioneering private/public partnerships to enhance oral health education with underserved children," said Cindy Hearn, GKAS National Advisory Committee member and senior vice president of branding and communications at CareCredit, which donated to ADA Foundation GKAS Fund to support the 2014 GKAS/NASCAR education initiative.

"Baylor's adoption of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School, after April's GKAS/NASCAR education program, is a model I hope others will replicate nationwide."

The GKAS/NASCAR program is made possible with support from 3M ESPE Dental, Henry Schein Inc., CareCredit, Church & Dwight, Oral Health America, the ADA Foundation and Mr. Biffle.