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‘These children don’t have to live with dental disease’

GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute ambassadors share best practices

December 19, 2017

By Kelly Soderlund

2017 GKAS ambassadors: Participants for the GKAS Community Leadership and Development Institute in St. Louis include, from the top row left to right, Drs. James Mancini and Kishore Shetty; second row, from left, Mirissa Price; Kayla Luce and Carlie Simpson; third row, from left, Dr. Renuka Bijoor and Wendy Dore; bottom row, from left, Katie Schroeder, Elizabeth Addison and Jennifer Bunch.

St. Louis — “Give Kids A Smile represents the heart of dentistry.”

That was dental student Mirissa D. Price’s takeaway from the 2017 GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute Oct. 25-29 in St. Louis. The Harvard School of Dental Medicine student was one of 10 ambassadors who attended the institute, which offers an opportunity for select GKAS program coordinators across the country to share best practices, explore outreach enhancements and learn new approaches to providing oral health care services for underserved children.

“What Give Kids A Smile reminds us all is that these children don’t have to live with dental disease,” Ms. Price said. “They can grow up empowered with healthy smiles, and bring the lessons they learn from attending Give Kids A Smile events back to their homes and communities.”

Ms. Price has been the coordinator for the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s GKAS program for the past three years and plans to take what she learned at the GKAS Institute back to Boston and apply it toward the 2018 event on Feb. 3, with hopes to build on what they accomplished last year.

“We are thrilled to say that not a single parent or child left without a glowing smile and a wealth of empowering resources, and are excited to expand our program,” Ms. Price said.

Since 2011, 69 GKAS program coordinators have completed training at the St. Louis GKAS Institute. Ambassadors spent the first day and a half brainstorming and networking and the last two days volunteering at the St. Louis Give Kids A Smile fall clinic, where 550 volunteers served 406 children and provided more than $374,704 in free dental care.

Dr. James Mancini, clinical director of the Salvation Army Dental Centers in Oil City and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, said he’s already implemented some changes in his GKAS program that he learned in St. Louis.

“My experience with the GKAS Institute was tremendous,” Dr. Mancini said. “I was able to see a fantastic display of organization and dedication from everyone involved. The passion everyone had for those children was amazing. We hold a GKAS event every year, but nothing like I saw in St. Louis. I learned a lot from the event, as well as hearing from the other ambassadors and their programs.”

Ambassadors who applied and were chosen for this year's event received travel stipends to cover their travel expenses thanks GKAS Institute sponsors HuFriedy and Henry Schein Cares.

The application period for the 2018 GKAS Institute will open April 1 through May 31. For more information on the institute, visit