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'Legacy of love': Family of late Navy dentist launches nonprofit in her name

#BeMoreLikeClaire continues Lt. Dr. VanLandingham's commitment to serve

August 20, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Photo of Julie Branstrom and Shannon VanLandingham next to mobile van
Give back like Claire: The Douglas County Dental Clinic, which received the first grant from #BeMoreLikeClaire, used the funding toward the purchase of a mobile van. Julie Branstrom, left, the executive director of the clinic, and Shannon VanLandingham, right, Lt. Dr. Claire VanLandingham's mother, smile next to the van.
The giving nature and passion for serving others of a Navy dentist killed earlier this year will live on thanks to a foundation in her name led by her family.

The first recipient of a grant from the #BeMoreLikeClaire nonprofit, announced in August, is a dental clinic in Kansas that will use the funds to help underserved children get access to care.

Lt. Dr. Claire VanLandingham, 27, died Jan. 3 after being shot by an ex-boyfriend, who also killed himself.

Shortly after her death, Lt. Dr. VanLandingham's dental school friends launched on social media the hashtag #BeMoreLikeClaire, flooding Facebook with posts from her loved ones who used it to remember her compassion for others.

"That hashtag is a perfect reminder for all of us who knew her to be a better person on a daily basis," said Dr. Puja Sangoi, a friend and former classmate of Lt. Dr. VanLandingham at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry.

Photo of Dr. VanLandingham in Navy dress uniform
Dr. VanLandingham
Before her death, Lt. Dr. VanLandingham had been providing care to Naval recruits at the U.S.S. Osborne — Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois, as a Navy Dental Corps officer.  

She was remembered by dental school friends as serving as a "big sister" in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, being active in her church and helping lead the school's chapter of the American Association for Women in Dentistry.

The new nonprofit, led by the dentist's mother, Shannon VanLandingham, is a way to "continue the work that she planned to do in her life," according to a news release.

"This has been such a tragedy in our lives, but I am proud that we are trying to carry on her legacy of love," Ms. VanLandingham told the ADA News.

The goal of #BeMoreLikeClaire is to provide funding for initiatives that increase access to food, housing and health care, said Ms. VanLandingham.

The first recipient of a grant is the Douglas County Dental Clinic in Lawrence, Kansas, where Lt. Dr. VanLandingham spent a summer working.

The $12,000 grant, which includes donations that  Lt. Dr. VanLandingham's loved ones gave after her death, will help the clinic's Friendly Smiles mobile dental program purchase a van, bringing diagnostic, preventive and operative services to more than 50 schools in seven Kansas counties.

Uninsured children who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program at school, or children who have Kansas Medicaid or commercial dental insurance, are eligible to participate.

Services include exams, X-rays, cleanings, fillings and more according to a news release.

Ms. VanLandingham told the ADA News her daughter had hoped to one day run a clinic that brought care to underserved patients, so "granting funds to purchase the Friendly Smiles van is the perfect way to kick of this new project and carry on Claire's legacy."

For more information about Lt. Dr. VanLandingham and #BeMoreLikeClaire, visit bemorelikeclaire.org.