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Predental students help boost data collection at GKAS events in New Jersey

NJDA honors two new dentists who created volunteer program

June 12, 2018

By Kimber Solana

Group photo of attendees
Award: From left, Drs. Cavan Brundsen, New Jersey Dental Association GKAS chair; Rosa Chaviano-Moran, associate dean for admissions at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine; Eric Klein; David Glassberg; and Maureen Barlow, NJDA director of programs and development. Drs. Klein and Glassberg were honored during the seniors' awards ceremony for their work and contribution to GKAS as predental students.
Newark, N.J. — As undergraduate predental students, Drs. Eric Klein and David Glassberg decided they wanted to find volunteer opportunities in the profession they planned on joining.
    
"Throughout my predental training I had limited exposure to organized dentistry," Dr. Glassberg said. "I remember learning about [Give Kids A Smile] and it sounded really interesting. This is exactly the type of program that I would love to be involved in."
    
The duo remembers walking into a GKAS meeting at the New Jersey Dental Association, taking a seat at the table and introducing themselves.
    
"I explained that I was a predental student interested in volunteering for Give Kids A Smile.  Although I wasn't a dentist yet, I wanted to contribute in any way possible to such a worthwhile program" Dr. Klein said.
    
That introduction about six years ago, said Maureen Barlow, NJDA director of programs and development, would lead to the creation of a new program focused on improving an important aspect in Give Kids A Smile events — data collection. The data, which include the number of children seen at various events, what kind of work or services was donated, etc., is used to drive state legislation involving oral health.
    
Six years later, this past May, both Drs. Klein and Glassberg received their dental degree from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. During the seniors' awards ceremony, the duo was surprised when they were honored for their work and contribution.
    
"They helped create a program that was a huge success," said Ms. Barlow. "The program helped predental students get first-hand exposure to the dental office and, today, GKAS data collection went from the national average of 30 percent to 100 percent."
    
In New Jersey, GKAS is handled a little differently from other states. Ms. Barlow said the state dental association organizes the event and provides support, including marketing and organizational assistance, to the over 200 dentist participants throughout the state. The NJDA hosts meetings between September and January to plan prior to the kickoff of GKAS in February.
    
"Lo and behold one day these two gentlemen show up to the meetings," Ms. Barlow said. "They basically came looking to volunteer their time."
    
At the following meeting, the two students and GKAS organizers brainstormed what predental students could do to help at the event, since their clinical participation would be limited by their status as undergraduates.
    
An idea clicked.

Dr. Cavan Brunsden, NJDA state manager of GKAS, said the ADA requests prompt data return from all of the GKAS events, but compiling data can be difficult.
    
"Dentists throughout the state are delivering their time and efforts in a truly magnificent and inspiring way," said Dr. Glassberg. "All of that generosity, however, was not properly being recorded and submitted back to the NJDA to accurately reflect the wonderful care these dentists and the state have provided. Once we recognized a need, there was a eureka moment."
    
The two presented their idea to the GKAS organizers, telling them they knew others who were eager to get involved and help, and who were interested in the opportunity to network, find a mentor and shadow a practicing dentist.
    
Group photo of attendees
Collecting data: Drs. David Glassberg, front left, and Eric Klein, front right, pose for a photo with Rutgers dental students during the New Jersey Dental Association GKAS event in 2014. Drs. Glassberg and Klein were predental students at the time and helped GKAS volunteers collect data.
The association and GKAS organizers were more than thrilled at the prospect of a predental GKAS volunteer program.
    
"With [Eric and David's] guidance and leadership, a huge logistic problem was solved for NJDA and a huge opportunity for predental students was created," Dr. Brunsden said.
    
"We were thrilled by the response we received from the Rutgers predental undergraduate students," said Dr. Klein. "The students who volunteered were so positive and enthusiastic."

That positive reaction continued with the dean and students of the predental program at Rutgers who welcomed the idea of predental undergrads volunteering at GKAS.

That first year, over 50 Rutgers undergraduate students volunteered. They were placed in various dental practices participating in GKAS. This past year, 55 students participated and data collection reached 100 percent, Ms. Barlow said.
    
"It is so gratifying to see how the data collection program has come to fruition, continues to grow and is making such a big difference" Dr.  Klein said.

The undergrad volunteers who sign up are introduced to the GKAS program in November. An orientation follows in January, at which the students are given the location of the practice to which they've been assigned.
    
In addition, NJDA hosts a recognition luncheon for the volunteers each year after GKAS. The dean of admission of Rutgers dental school also attends the luncheon and provides a presentation on the dental school admissions process.
    
"What is unique about this early engagement of predental students is the enthusiasm that it has generated among our prospective future dentists and members of organized dentistry," said Dr. Brunsden.

Ms. Barlow said the program has grown so much that other colleges in the area are now contacting the New Jersey Dental Association asking how they can get involved.
    
"The program continues to evolve," Ms. Barlow said. "But it all stems from two predental students who just walked in and joined our meeting."
    
While in dental school, Drs. Klein and Glassberg passed the torch of the program to the upcoming predental students. "We recognized the benefit of this program and wanted to cement its incorporation into GKAS for future years." said Dr. Glassberg.
    
At the senior awards ceremony in May, Drs. Glassberg and Klein didn't know they would be honored for their work but when they recognized Ms. Barlow and Dr. Brundson at the event, another light bulb clicked.
    
"It felt like we were coming full circle," Dr. Glassberg said. "We knew we helped create something significant, but we didn't really appreciate it at the time. We didn't know it was going to transform the GKAS program in the state."
    
In 16 years since GKAS began, Dr. Brunsden said, New Jersey has served more than 40,000 children and provided close to $8 million in dental services.
    
"Last year, 130 volunteer sites delivered dental care to children in need, with all the details recorded by predental students from Rutgers and the New Jersey Institute of Technology through the program initiated by Eric and David," Dr. Brunsden said.
    
GKAS was a major part in the beginning of the duo's journey into dental school, and it followed them through graduation and beyond.
    
Dr. Klein is starting a general practice residency program at St. Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, New York, and looks forward to continued participation in GKAS. Dr. Glassberg is beginning a general practice residency program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, and will continue to be involved in GKAS as well.
    
"GKAS is our roots." Dr Glassberg said.  "I'm always thinking about ways to help the program, and now look forward to giving back as a dentist."
    
"Give Kids A Smile has had a profound influence on us as dental providers. The dentists who donate their time and effort exemplify generosity and kindness," Dr. Klein said. "These are the dentists we aspire to become."

The ADA Foundation recognizes the importance of capturing GKAS data and is currently in the process of upgrading the national data collection system which is scheduled to launch Oct. 1. More information regarding the update will be available prior to the launch. To learn more about the ADA Foundation's Give Kids A Smile program or to make a donation, visit ADAFoundation.org/GKAS.