From high school student to dentist, Give Kids A Smile volunteer continues commitment
January 14, 2020
For Dr. Theressa Eliscar-Hewett, it was the excitement of the young patients arriving at the Give Kids A Smile event that solidified her desire to be a dentist.
"You can't put that into words. It's a wonderful experience seeing how their faces light up and how excited they are to get the exam," she said.
Dr. Eliscar-Hewett, 29, began volunteering at the Nassau County Give Kids A Smile event in Long Island, New York, as a high school student while taking a dental assisting course at Joseph M. Barry Career & Technical Education Center. Although volunteering started off as a requirement for the course, she continues to volunteer more than 10 years later, only now as a dentist.
Volunteers: Dr. Theressa Eliscar-Hewett, far right, volunteers at the 2013 Nassau County Give Kids A Smile event. Photo courtesy of Patrice K. O’Malley-Miller
Give Kids A Smile will hold this year's national kickoff event Feb. 7 at the Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis. More than 6 million underserved children have received free oral health services through Give Kids A Smile since the program's national launch in 2003.
"It's an opportunity for those who may not have the education about oral hygiene and topical oral health care to get that exposure. Many of the kids participating are as old as 6 or 7, and they've never been to the dentist," said Dr. Eliscar-Hewett, who lives in Brooklyn. "But having this program allows them to get an exam and pass knowledge along to their parents."
In addition to volunteering at the Nassau County event as a high school student and today as a dentist, Dr. Eliscar-Hewett also was a volunteer during college and between college and dental school. Her commitment to the program extended beyond New York as well, as she volunteered at Howard University College of Dentistry's Give Kids A Smile event in Washington, D.C., while completing her dental degree.
In recent years, the Nassau County event has sought to focus more on children with disabilities, and Dr. Eliscar-Hewett said she especially enjoys working with these patients.
"These are the kids who unfortunately are forgotten at times," she said. "But they're here, and they have their unique dental needs that need to be addressed."
All smiles: Dr. Theressa Eliscar-Hewett sees a patient at the 2018 Nassau County Give Kids A Smile event with her mentor, Dr. David J. Miller. Photo courtesy of Patrice K. O’Malley-Miller
Besides cementing her interest in dentistry, Dr. Eliscar-Hewett's involvement with Give Kids A Smile helped her make professional connections that led to her career today.
She is currently an associate in the Long Island dental practice of Dr. David J. Miller, whom she met while volunteering with Give Kids A Smile through her technical school. She worked as a dental assistant for Dr. Miller after receiving her certification and also did her dental residency at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, where Dr. Miller is the chairman of the department of dental medicine. She works as an associate at another dental practice as well.
"Give Kids A Smile brought us together, and we've been a team since then, growing from my roles as dental assistant to resident to now, associate," Dr. Eliscar-Hewett said.
For more information about Give Kids A Smile, visit ADAFoundation.org/en/give-kids-a-smile