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MyView: ADA Foundation's mission: C.A.R.E.

November 04, 2013

By Dr. David Whiston

It has been my continuing privilege to have been involved in many aspects of our profession over several years, including service as ADA president in the late '90s, and now as president of the ADA Foundation. It's been interesting to witness, close up, the various ways the ADA serves its members, the profession and the public.

Now, as the ADA works harder than ever to increase member value, it's obviously more important than ever for the ADAF to complement that effort by providing additional tangible and intangible benefits that only a Foundation can provide.

The ADA Foundation's various programs directly enhance several of the ADA's value statements, including supporting the profession in times of need, improving access, conducting cutting-edge research and helping with public and professional education. Taken together, these programs form the basis for the acronym that is used to summarize the mission of the ADA Foundation. That acronym is C.A.R.E., which stands for Charitable Assistance, Access to Care, Research, and Education. We work hard to ensure that all of our efforts, and all of the funds provided to us by the ADA, industry supporters and individual donors are directed to accomplishing those objectives.

In the past two years the ADA Foundation has made great progress in improving its internal operations, establishing strong financial systems, and reestablishing the research center as a resource to advance oral health care. All of that effort has been focused on improving the ADA Foundation's ability to serve the public while supporting the ADA's goals of improving access to care and enhancing public health. Some of our recent activities include:

Charitable Assistance–With the support of the ADA, many state and regional dental societies, several corporate donors, and a large number of individuals, the ADA Foundation was able to make disaster assistance grants totaling $430,000 to dentists in New York and New Jersey who suffered losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy. We also made additional grants to dentists affected by other disasters nationwide, and we continue to assist indigent dentists and their families whose financial needs have become overwhelming.

Access to Care–The ADA Foundation serves as the primary resource for fund raising and grant administration for the ADA's premier and largest access to care/outreach program, Give Kids A Smile. Nationally, GKAS projects provide care for about 400,000 children at more than 1,800 locations across the U.S., involving more than 40,000 volunteers. The ADA Foundation provides support of more than $400,000 per year for those efforts.

The ADA also supports outstanding education and outreach efforts through grants such as the Tarrson Award for efforts in the United States and the Zwemer Award for efforts abroad. These awards of $5,000 each are made to dental schools whose student-run programs provide care to communities where individuals would not have access to care otherwise. The letters and comments that we receive from the students at the schools, and occasionally from those who have benefited from this treatment and care, indicate that this is an important part of our mission.

Research–The ADA Foundation's research facility, located in Gaithersburg, Md., on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been a major force in improving health care for more than 85 years. Our researchers have developed many of the innovations that have propelled dentistry forward, including calcium-phosphate cement technologies, improved restorative materials, adhesives, and technology such as panographic X-ray equipment and high-speed hand pieces. New research is addressing the emerging areas of biomaterials and biomineralization, nano-technology, tissue engineering, and the complex nature of biofilm. Much of this work will be instrumental in gaining a better understanding of oral diseases, and of the complex interaction between oral health and systemic health.

In order to continue this rapid improvement in our research program, a major new collaboration among the ADA, the ADA Foundation and Colgate Palmolive Co. will result in the infusion of $1.5 million to improve the research center in Gaithersburg. Consequently, the lab, formerly known as the Paffenbarger Research Center will now be known as the Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center, in honor of the noteworthy researcher, mentor and educator who has long been associated with Colgate. A new distinguished research position will also be created bearing Dr. Volpe's name. Colgate's corporate commitment will provide permanent support for the Dental Student Conference on Research, which helps to identify and encourage the most promising young dental researchers from schools in the U.S. and Canada every year. In 2014, the Dental Student Conference on Research will celebrate its 50th anniversary of helping to establish a pipeline of important dental researchers who will help the profession in the future.

In September 2013, the Volpe Research Center was awarded a five-year, $2.25 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a part of the National Institutes of Health, for the purpose of developing "Novel Dental Resin Composites with Improved Service Life."

Education–The ADA Foundation also provides scholarships for meritorious dental students at schools across the country, as well as for allied dental health students who study in the fields of dental technology, dental laboratory and dental assisting. The ADAF is working now to increase our resources to do even more for those deserving young students.

The ADA Foundation supports education programs designed to increase the knowledge of the public on the importance of good oral health. The Give Kids A Smile program includes a substantial education component, as do the Tarrson and Zwemer programs. In addition, the Samuel D. Harris Fund recognizes community-based programs that educate and encourage new mothers about the importance of infant oral health care.

These programs provide instruction, encouragement, supplies and materials necessary for mothers to get started with their children on a lifetime of good oral health care.

Preparing for the Future–The advances that we have made are the result of an outstanding Board of Directors, an energetic staff in Chicago and Gaithersburg, a commitment by the ADA leadership, and a new interest from corporate supporters.

With a strong organization in place, greatly enhanced financial systems, and forward-looking research capabilities, the ADA Foundation is a key member of the ADA family and serves an important role in supporting the ADA's efforts for improved public health. We can all be proud of the ADA Foundation.

There is a role for every member of the ADA as well. Your involvement as a volunteer, or as a committee member, can be very beneficial. Your time and energy are valuable resources, and your ideas often will lead us to make improvements in our existing programs. But most important of all, your financial support will be the key to our future success.

As noteworthy as all these efforts are, there is so much more we can do. All of our existing programs could be expanded quite readily, given the demand we see each year. For example, we can make approximately 18 to 20 Samuel D. Harris Fund awards annually; yet each year we receive as many as 85 excellent applications. Similarly, for both the Tarrson and Zwemer awards we receive approximately 20 quality applications, but we can make only one award in each category annually. We can greatly expand our research efforts, and begin to develop scholarships and fellowships that will encourage young researchers at the very earliest stages of their studies and careers. Finally, we would like to do more in the area of scholarships for dental students and allied health students. Currently our scholarships are $2,500 for dental students and $1,000 for allied dental scholarships. These are significantly smaller than they should be in order to help those students meet their needs.

To better support all of these initiatives, the ADA Foundation staff and Board are working diligently to increase our financial resources. In addition, we are developing ideas for new programs that will further enhance the role of the ADA Foundation and the ability of the ADA to help fulfill its access to care, education and public health goals.

Please take a look at the article on Page 1, and consider how you can help us maintain and enhance our progress for the good of patients and the public.

It has been very gratifying for all of us to see the tremendous progress that has been made in such a short period of time, and to hear comments or receive letters from those who have benefitted from the work of the Foundation. We know that the ADA Foundation is an extremely valuable part of our profession, and we would like for you to join us on this journey toward much greater success in the future.

Dr. Whiston is president of the ADA Foundation. For more details on ADA Foundation activities, visit