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Young dentist group leader applies GKAS Institute lessons to Hawaii events

April 20, 2015

By Jean Williams

Group dynamics: The Hawaii Dental Association Young Dentist Group volunteers hold up a Give Kids A Smile Hawaii banner at their Feb. 21 GKAS event. Pictured at the top, from left: Drs. Tina Mukai, Lauren Young, Keri Wong and Jaclyn Palola.  At bottom, from left: Drs. Blake Kitamura, Robert Yong, Scott Morita, Bryan Sato, Suzan Ly, Christopher Young, Scott Hiramoto, Wesley Sato, Rachel Dipasquale and Blake Matsuura.

On the ball: One of the keiki, or children, at the Give Kids A Smile Hawaii event tries her luck on the Smile Shuffle Board in the Molar Mania Fun Zone.

Proud ambassador: Dr. Morita poses with Fred the Floss-a-saurus and displays a signed proclamation declaring February Give Kids  A Smile Month in Hawaii.
— Hawaii’s isolation from mainland resources and not having a dental school are two of the challenges that face anyone coordinating a Give Kids A Smile event here.

In contemplating taking the lead in organizing the Hawaii Dental Association’s GKAS event, Dr. Scott Morita applied for and obtained a spot at the 2014 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute. He took his association’s GKAS dilemmas with him to St. Louis last October and the Institute helped him forge ideas on how to corral the energy and efforts of the Hawaii Dental Association Young Dentist Group to tailor a series of GKAS events.

“It’s the first year of new dentists implementing any kind of program in Hawaii like this at all,” said Dr. Morita, an orthodontist.

Ultimately, Dr. Morita and his fellow young dentists organized a three-part observation of GKAS in February, with their main event occurring Feb. 21.

They started on the official Give Kids A Smile Day, Feb. 6. “We helped organize a program at the Institute for Human Services, a women and children’s shelter,” Dr. Morita said. “We were able to partner up with social workers, teachers and various other organizations.”

At the shelter, the young dentists joined a group of hygienists and pediatricians in educating parents and children on dental health and nutrition topics. Local hygiene students taught the importance of brushing and flossing, he said. “We also have a pediatric residency program in Hawaii. Dr. Lynn Fujimoto is in charge of that program, and she had some of her residents present; so we were able to see numerous children at that event.

“There was no treatment, but a lot of education. It was important for us to go to that shelter because one of the hardest things is getting the parents to bring the children to a clinic. So that was part one.”

In the second part of their efforts, for two weeks the young dentists canvassed with fliers at six elementary schools to attract parents and kids to their main GKAS event.

“We passed out a total of 10,000 fliers to every elementary school in the area,” Dr.  Morita said, “We talked to the superintendents and the principals in the respective areas, so that each student would get information on the actual event day, which then was held on Feb. 21.”

They treated kids Feb. 21 at a new community clinic, the Wakiki Health Makahiki Dental Clinic, which is federally funded, Dr. Morita said. “The clinic had just opened a few months before,” he said. “It was open to the whole community, 18 and under. Not only were children able to be seen, but if they didn’t have a dentist, they could make that their dental home. That clinic is designed specifically to help those who qualify at the poverty level.”

In total, Dr. Morita’s team attracted 80 volunteers, including 30 dentists, for their GKAS treatment event. “We saw over 100 children,” Dr. Morita said. “They had more education, but they were also able to get a free oral examination, free prophy and free fluoride treatment on that day.”

Dr. Morita also made connections that led to a signed proclamation from Hawaii Gov. David Ige declaring February 2015 as Give Kids A Smile Month in Hawaii.
A lot of work went into planning and executing HDA’s GKAS events, including attracting sponsors, all between October and February, when the events launched. “It was our beta test,” Dr. Morita said. “But I want it to become annualized here. That’s my goal.”

His attendance at the 2014 New Dentist Conference also sparked ideas for the Hawaii Dental Association Young Dentist Group’s GKAS efforts. Meeting new dentists from around the U.S. allowed Dr. Morita to learn what others were doing  with their programs.

“Then I was able to go to the ambassador program, and that’s where everything really came together.”

To learn more about the GKAS Institute and becoming a GKAS Ambassador, see the Page 12 story this issue on the May 11, 2015, application deadline.  Also see Page 16 for a story about registration opening in early May for the 2015 New Dentist Conference coinciding this year with ADA 2015.