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Mardi Gras grins

LSU, Wyoming among GKAS Institute events

March 06, 2017

By Kelly Soderlund

Mardi Gras theme: ADA President Gary L. Roberts, who hails from Shreveport, La., stops by the photo booth at the LSU GKAS event Feb. 10. He poses with dental hygiene students, clockwise from bottom left, Alexis Bailey, Kristen Gekler, Sarah Bourgeois and Jenna Brignac.
New Orleans — "Do y'all have king cake?"

Given the sparkly green, purple and yellow Mardi Gras decorations adorning the halls and clinic at the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, the little girl's question was a fair one. She was the first in line Feb. 10 at the dental school's Give Kids A Smile event, where about 100 third-graders from McDonogh City Park Academy received oral health education, screenings and dental sealants with a parent's permission.

The dental clinic was a flurry of activity as children moved from station to station while they waited to see the dental students, supervised by dental school faculty. Some children were outside playing football while others were entertained by a magician. Some crowded in front of a photo booth while others learned how to floss and brush properly with the help of stuffed animals.

Amid the chaos was a tall woman wearing a puffy, sequined purple, green and yellow bow. Hannah Boudreaux bounded from room to room, giving directions to the volunteers and speaking into a walkie-talkie from time to time to communicate with those not directly in front of her.

While LSU has had faculty-driven Give Kids A Smile events in the past, this year's event, which was the largest the school has ever hosted, was coordinated by Ms. Boudreaux, a third-year dental student and graduate of the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Development Institute. In October 2016, Ms. Boudreaux was one of 12 GKAS Ambassadors who attended the St. Louis program to learn how to initiate, expand or enhance a Give Kids A Smile program.

Thumbs up and big smiles: Dental students Austin O’Quinn, left, and Daniel Sharbono and dental hygiene students Rebecca Espey, middle, and Olivia Gallego, pose with 9-year-old Alex Hernandez after his exam Feb. 10.
"Hannah Boudreaux has been willing to take the lead and get the student body and the faculty to step up and has had the most significant success this program has seen since its inception at LSU," said Dr. Henry Gremillion, dean of the dental school.  

In fact, 25 more children were treated at this year's event than last year's, making it an "extremely successful" event, according to Ms. Boudreaux.

"My expectations were surpassed with our volunteer base," she said. "We had such great dental students and dental hygiene students as well as pre-dental students from the University of New Orleans and LSU. One thing I learned at the GKAS Institute was to try to take care of the volunteers so they return for future events. I made a big effort this year by giving them T-shirts to wear at the event and food for two days while they were training for the clinic. We can also attribute our success to the support of our dean, Dr. Gremillion, and the pediatric dentistry department."

GKAS Ambassador: Third-year dental student Hannah Boudreaux speaks to the dental and dental hygiene students who volunteered at the Give Kids A Smile event she coordinated after attending the GKAS Institute last fall.
Ms. Boudreaux chaired meetings with her peers and dental school faculty leading up to the event; reached out to the local media for publicity; crafted a budget; and even convinced ADA President Gary Roberts, who hails from Shreveport, to attend.

"I have never been so proud to be from Louisiana," Dr. Roberts told the dental students during a town hall meeting following the morning event.

The elementary school students were sent home with a green, yellow or red card, depending on the outcome of their visit, Ms. Boudreaux said. A green card meant they were good to go; a yellow card signaled the dental students found a cavity or believed the child needed a dental cleaning; and a red card indicated the parents may want to take them to an urgent care clinic Ms. Boudreaux had set up for the following morning to receive students who may be in pain or who need immediate attention.

Coordinating the event was a learning experience for Ms. Boudreaux but the morning was also a teaching opportunity for the rest of her peers, many of whom aspired to be pediatric dentists.

"This is a great opportunity for them to interact with children before they graduate and become dentists," said Dr. Priyanshi Ritwik, a pediatric dentist and faculty member. "Some students may be more scared of the children than they are of them."

It was also a lesson in serving a different sector of the population, given that many of the children who attend GKAS events come from low-income families.

"The event just reinforces the need to give back," said Dr. Janice Townsend, chair of the department of pediatric dentistry at the dental school. "Give Kids A Smile is a yearly reminder about how important it is to give back to all children, no matter their economic status."

"Instilling in our students the idea of giving back to those in need cannot be overstated," Dr. Gremillion said.

Supervised learning: Fourth-year dental student Leon Flettrich examines 10-year-old Nakiya Coleman at the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry Give Kids A Smile event as third-year dental student Dimetry Cossich, right, documents.
Wyoming GKAS

Nearly 1,600 miles northwest, volunteer dentists and dental team members also gave back to children in need of oral health care. Keshia Brinkerhoff, Ms. Boudreaux's classmate at the GKAS Institute, coordinated an event  with 70 volunteers serving 115 children. The event provided oral hygiene instruction, nutritional counseling, prophylaxis, fluoride sealants, radiographs, exams, resin and amalgam restorations and extractions when necessary, said Ms. Brinkerhoff, program coordinator, who works at Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming.   

The GKAS program is especially important to Wyoming residents this year, Ms. Brinkerhoff said, because the Wyoming Department of Health eliminated its public oral health program as a result of state budget reductions, which means fewer low-income families with children will receive dental care. The opportunity to help children receive oral health care was the main reason Dr. T. Shaun Sutherland volunteered his time on a Saturday.

"I have been in practice for over 30 years, and I feel I should to give back to the community who has supported me all these years," Dr. Sutherland said. "I believe every child should be provided the same opportunity of success. A healthy mouth is a part of this recipe for success. I get the satisfaction of knowing that I may have contributed — however infinitesimal — to the well-being of a child who may not have been able to receive dental treatment without GKAS."

For more information on Give Kids A Smile, visit