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Whiston Award winners demonstrate leadership in dentistry, community

August 25, 2016

By David Burger

ADA Foundation logo

The ADA Foundation in August named two Missourians as the recipients of the 2016 Dr. David Whiston Leadership Awards.

Dr. Nathan Suter of Arnold, Missouri, received the Dr. David Whiston Leadership Award and Dhwani Joshi, a dental student at A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health, received the Henry Schein Cares Dr. David Whiston Leadership Award.

The Foundation created the awards in 2014 to honor Dr. Whiston, who served as ADA president from 1997-98, trustee from 1992-96 and president of the Foundation board of directors from 2010-14. The award is meant to recognize dentists who have demonstrated strong leadership skills that can be used to improve the oral health of the public in the years ahead, with Dr. Whiston’s career as an example.

The Foundation provides $5,000 to each of two winners annually. The award is used to cover the costs associated with attending a leadership training program offered by the American Management Association.

Photo of Dr. Nathan Suter
Dr. Nathan Suter
Dr. Suter, who received his dental degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry in 2013, serves as the oral health director for COMTREA Comprehensive Health Center, a federally qualified health center, in Arnold, Missouri. In this role, he has expanded oral health care access through the development of mobile dental services, increasing dental service locations and the implementation of permanent school-based dental clinics in underserved areas. In addition, he has written and secured over $1 million dollars in private, state and federal grants to create a dental safety net that was non-existent in his county.

Dr. Suter said that leadership was important to him. “Leadership in dentistry and the community is essential to give a voice to oral health-related issues,” he said. “My community lacks access to dental care for low-income residents as well as for some rural towns. Negative images of people with no teeth or teeth problems related to substance use has plagued my county and the surrounding areas. By engaging my community and the organizations that affect change, I hope to bring a new focus on oral health and the services that dentists can provide.”

He plans to attend a three-day seminar on Leading with Emotional Intelligence. “With better tools to help with managing myself and my relationships with others, I can apply myself in new ways and build the relationships in my community that are necessary to improve oral health,” he said.

Ms. Joshi, who is a third-year student, also said that leadership was key. “Leadership is important in dentistry and the community because it can help bridge the gap in oral health disparities faced by different communities and demographics of people throughout the United States and the world,” she said. “Leadership and community service can help provide oral health care and improve the oral health status of communities that are underprivileged or may not otherwise have access to the care they need.”

Photo of Dhwani Joshi
Ms. Dhwani Joshi
As president of her school’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association, Ms. Joshi has experienced what leadership can accomplish. “These leadership positions were a unique opportunity for me,” she said. “They allowed me to help shape our chapter into one that was focused not only on advancing and protecting the rights and interests of dental students at my school, but also on giving back to the community and serving underserved populations.”

Ms. Joshi appreciated the chance to learn more about leadership through the grant. “This grant will strengthen my leadership in dentistry, as it will provide me with funding and resources to help me further establish and enhance my leadership skills,” she said. “I hope to utilize those skills to develop effective oral health promotion and disease prevention programs in the communities I am a part of in the future.”

To learn more about the grant programs offered by the ADA Foundation or to make a donation, visit