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New York County Dental Society GKAS serves nearly 1,400

March 15, 2019

By Matt Carey


Teaching: New York State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez observes volunteer Daniela Chis educating kids on oral health at PS 182 in East Harlem for the New York County Dental Society Give Kids A Smile day.

New York — Manhattan was the host to an oral health initiative on a massive scale Feb. 1 when the New York County Dental Society hosted a Give Kids A Smile day during which volunteers screened 1,392 children from underserved neighborhoods.

The event had 129 volunteers at five sites serving nine schools in East Harlem, West Harlem and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was a 65 percent increase in children treated from last year when 845 children were screened. Students received screenings, oral hygiene instruction, and fluoride treatment. The estimated cost of all care provided was $156,010.


Helping hands: Columbia University College of Dental Medicine student Courtney Haron provides dental education to students at PS/MS 12 in East Harlem, New York.

“It is quite rewarding to see the incredible number of wins that come from a program such as ours,” said Dr. Deborah Weisfuse, general chair of GKAS NYC 2019. “Besides the obvious one of helping children and their families learn about and move towards better oral health, I have really enjoyed watching the personal development of my leadership team, their increased engagement in GKAS NYC, and even greater engagement in our component.”

Dr. Weisfuse was the first female president of the New York State Dental Association and is a current member of ADA Advisory Committee on Annual Meetings. As past legislative chair for the NYCDS, she realized that a high-profile community event was needed to get on the radar of elected officials in Manhattan.

“This project has raised the visibility of organized dentistry and oral health locally,” said Dr. Weisfuse. “Local city council members, the borough president, the public advocate, local representatives of the state legislature, the U.S. Congress, and the speaker of the New York City Council have all become aware of Give Kids A Smile run by the New York County Dental Society.”


Open wide: Dr. Bruce Blau examines one of the 1,392 patients seen at the New York County Dental Society Give Kids A Smile event.

Another important feature of this program is that it has the approval of the New York City Department of Health and the New York City Department of Education and both their legal departments. In going through this process these agencies have become cognizant of the significant community effort of the society, said Dr. Weisfuse.

In 2018, Dr. Weisfuse, encouraged by U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, created a multidisciplinary community task force that includes New York County Dental Society leaders and representatives from local government, the city departments of Education and of Health, industry, and the New York State Dental Association. With their support, the committee is looking for more ways to solve inequalities in dental health care in the underserved areas of Manhattan.   

But it all starts with a tremendous community event, said Diane Laurenzo, NYCDS executive director, “If you are considering volunteering for a Give Kids A Smile program, just do it,” she said. “It will become your favorite day of the year!”