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ADA Foundation honors dental student-led programs helping the underserved

May 07, 2018

By Kelly Ganski

Photo of dental students examining a patient
Harvard ACTION clinic: Dental students Mindy Truong and Puhan He, HSDM Class of 2019, perform an oral examination of a 10-year-old boy from Cambridge, Mass.

Dental care for Hurricane Harvey victims and a student-run clinic for disadvantaged children: These are some of the examples of the recipients of the ADA Foundation's E. "Bud" Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Awards for the 2017-18 school year.

The Tarrson Awards recognize excellence in dental school student programs that provide services to underserved populations within the U.S. Each award is valued at $5,000. The ADA Foundation's Tarrson Fund was created in 2003 by Linda Tarrson in remembrance of her husband E. "Bud" Tarrson, longtime owner of the former John O. Butler Co. and oral health philanthropist. This year's six Tarrson Award recipients are:

  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine for its Action for Children and Teenagers in Oral Health Need program.
  • Indiana University School of Dentistry for its Student Outreach Clinic.
  • Tufts University School of Dental Medicine for the Tufts Student Chapter of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry.
  • University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry for its Community Dental Clinic.
  • University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry for the Detroit Mercy American Association of Public Health Dentistry Student-Run HUDA Dental Clinic.
  • University of Texas at Houston School of Dentistry for #Harvey: Mobilizing Relief and Onsite Dental Care.

Working directly with city officials and government medical relief agencies after Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017, dental students at the University of Texas at Houston School of Dentistry coordinated care for displaced individuals suffering from acute dental pain. Student volunteers participated by assisting with patient registration, taking vitals and images, assisting faculty and residents chairside, and distributing oral hygiene kits, according to their application.

Image of ADA Foundation logo"Despite the great devastation of Hurricane Harvey, which affected some of our school's own family, we still came together to help those in need," said Dr. Kimberly S. Ruona, associate dean for patient care.

"Our mobile dental van was an integral component of the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts," she continued. "Individuals of all ages were able to obtain much needed treatment and pain relief in a comfortable setting during this stressful time. In addition, this opportunity allowed us to collaborate with the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, Red Cross and other healthcare professionals as we provided dental care for the shelter evacuees in downtown Houston. This project truly exemplified the depth of Houstonian hearts."

Students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine also targeted those in need. ACTION (Action for Children and Teenagers in Oral Health Need) is a monthly student-run clinic that serves disadvantaged children in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.

"Our program is unique because it serves a vulnerable population in a self-sustaining model of care that exposes dental students to public health dentistry," said dental student Mindy Truong. "Our clinic sees an average of 22 patients per session and has totaled over 2,000 completed treatment visits since its inception. While we offer a wide range of restorative services, we focus on prevention of oral health disease through oral hygiene instruction, prophylaxis and fluoride and sealant application."

For more information on the awards, visit