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Oral Health America honors Rep. Lewis, Sen. Brown

October 04, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Honored: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, poses with Oral Health America board members Peggy Cottrell, left, and Dr. Leslie Grant. Rep. Lewis received OHA's 2017 Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award. Photos by Risdon Photography.
Washington — Breaking down barriers to health equity is the theme of Oral Health America's 2017 advocacy week, and that's just what the conversation covered during the organization's Oct. 3 ceremony honoring Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Rep. Lewis received OHA's 2017 Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award, which celebrates individuals whose leadership has improved public health in the U.S. An orthodontist by trade, Dr. Goldstein opened the first integrated hotel in Atlanta in 1964, which later became a haven for civil rights workers and black people who were turned away from other establishments, the New York Times reported in his 1997 obituary.

OHA said it recognized Rep. Lewis for his leadership and "commitment to nonviolent civil rights demonstrations in his role as architect and a keynote speaker in the historic March on Washington and, in 1965, his leading of 600 peaceful protestors in the Selma to Montgomery marches."

Leadership: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the 2017 Legislative Honoree, talks about the importance of dental health for children.
"I knew Dr. Goldstein and he was an amazing and wonderful man," said Rep. Lewis, who has represented Georgia's 5th district since 1987. "This award is very, very meaningful."

Sen. Brown was selected as the 2017 Legislative Honoree, an award sponsored by OHA and Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, an initiative of the Dental Trade Alliance, which recognizes leadership in supporting critical health care legislation.

Sen. Brown was honored for "championing policies that improve the health of all children," — including the Children's Health Insurance Program — and for his efforts to ensure "all of our young people receive a quality high school education and graduate with the skills and tools needed to advance to postsecondary education or training," OHA said.

"Senator Brown has been a champion for middle class families for years, committed to social and economic justice," said Beth Truett, president and chief executive officer, Oral Health America. "Honoring him as the 2017 Legislative Honoree allows us to thank him for his dedication to CHIP and the children of our nation."

"Oral health has always been underappreciated in the realm of public health," said Sen. Brown, who was elected to the Senate in 2007.

The senator stressed the importance of programs such as CHIP — which he said annually serves 200,000 children in Ohio — and sung the praises of federally qualified health centers.

Health matters: Camara Jones, M.D., keynote speaker during Oral Health America’s Advocacy Week, discusses health disparities with attendees.
"The stories we hear about kids getting dental care sets their lives on a different path," he said, adding, "We don't talk enough about public health."

During the night's keynote, Camara Jones, M.D., senior fellow at the Morehouse School of Medicine, said, "Health disparities will be eliminated when health equity is achieved."

The event was part of OHA's annual advocacy week, Fall for Smiles, which took place Oct. 2-6 in Washington. This year's campaign, Our Families, Our Future: Achieving Oral Health Equity, centered around oral health disparities by "highlighting the dilemma between having equal access to oral health care versus having access to what is needed to ensure an equal opportunity to achieve good oral health outcomes," OHA said.

In addition to visiting with legislators and their staffs, OHA also hosted "Oral Health is Health," an Oct. 4 briefing in the Capitol Visitors Center.

During the briefing, three speakers gave presentations on oral health:

  • Dr. Hal Slavkin, professor and dean Emeritus at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California.
  • Mary Otto, author of the book, "Teeth."
  • Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., ADA chief economist and vice president, Health Policy Institute.

Following the presentations, OHA held a questions and answers session moderated by Dr. Ivan Lugo, executive director, Hispanic Dental Association.