The Hero Behind DentaQuest’s Well being Fairness Heroes

Mary Ann Koslowski

For the final seven years, Mary Ann Kozlowski, DentaQuest’s head of Company Giving and Partnerships, has spent a lot of her time figuring out and lifting up “Well being Fairness Heroes” — people throughout the nation who’re devoted to bettering the oral well being of all by decreasing disparities and growing entry in progressive new methods.

Since its inception in 2015, DentaQuest’s Health Equity Heroes program has acknowledged 67 heroes throughout 23 states and contributed greater than $225,000 to area people organizations. 

“The entire concept was to speak about DentaQuest as a company that respects pioneering people doing frontline work to deal with disparities widespread in lots of communities,” stated Mary Ann.

As we have fun one other group of Well being Fairness Heroes this July, we talked to Mary Ann to be taught extra in regards to the historical past of this system and what makes somebody a DentaQuest Well being Fairness Hero. Right here’s what she needed to say:

What’s the story behind Well being Fairness Heroes and the way it got here to fruition?

The concept initially got here up in a brainstorm session again in 2015 about find out how to construct out DentaQuest’s variety, fairness and inclusion efforts whereas additionally constructing higher relationships with folks doing nice work within the communities we serve. We honored 5 people who first yr, who had been nominated by staff members and companions. This system has grown from a grassroots effort to a nationally celebrated day of recognition. These first few years, every Hero acquired $1,000. In 2019, we actually broadened our outreach and acquired greater than 30 nominations. Throughout COVID, we used a web based nomination kind and promoted the award digitally, which actually helped construct extra consciousness We additionally knew everybody was hurting so desperately that yr, so we elevated the award to $5,000. Final yr we designated July 13 as Well being Fairness Hero Day to honor the nominees and all Heroes in our day by day. This yr, we had nearly 50 nominees. I’m so thrilled with how folks have responded.

What makes somebody a Well being Fairness Hero and the way are they chosen?

To me, a Well being Fairness Hero is a pioneer — somebody keen to place themselves on the entrance strains and work for what they actually imagine in. We search for quite a lot of folks. Not everybody needs to be a dentist. I believe it’s additionally fascinating that the Hero alternatives are made by a various group throughout DentaQuest. We’ve a committee represented by customer support, authorities relations, enterprise growth, medical work, communications, neighborhood outreach … all of these voices are a part of the choice committee and every brings a novel perspective to the dialog and course of.

Who’re among the Heroes and what are among the tales which have stood out to you? 

There have been so many unbelievable tales and folks over time!

Judy Haber, a 2017 Hero, was a nurse at NYU who took the reins to make oral well being a part of nursing triage. Earlier than that, if a nurse evaluated you they won’t look in your mouth, however she pioneered incorporating a glance within the mouth as a part of ER coaching — inserting oral into the usual ER examination of head, ears, eyes, nostril and throat. Now nurses examine earlier than the throat. Her work with have incalculable impression for years to return.

There’s additionally work that is occurring exterior of dentistry. George Mendoza, for instance, a 2018 Hero after which Superintendent of La Grande College District in Oregon, embraced making oral well being literacy a core part of the district’s well being program.

And naturally, in 2020, there have been numerous unbelievable tales of individuals stepping up in new and progressive methods throughout COVID to ensure those that are most susceptible had entry to care. From Dr. Rikita Chandra spearheading a teledentistry program to maintain sufferers out of the ED, to Dr. Tim Garvey of the College of Florida School of Dentistry, who targeted on entry to dental care for people with disabilities and particular well being care wants — an underserved inhabitants that has had distinctive challenges throughout the pandemic. 

What’s the most gratifying a part of engaged on this program and seeing it develop?

I simply love studying about all these folks — to listen to their tales and be capable of inform their tales. They don’t cross our paths that always, but are doing actually large, vital work. Quite a lot of these organizations and people we by no means would have recognized about if it wasn’t for Well being Fairness Heroes and plenty of have grow to be assets for us. Marcia Beatty of the Oklahoma Oral Well being Coalition, for instance, has helped us make a contribution to Native communities in Oklahoma. It has actually helped DentaQuest develop our pool of buddies and advocates throughout the nation. As an organization whose mission is to enhance the well being of all, and I do imagine in that, this program actually reinforces our mission and imaginative and prescient.

To be taught extra about DentaQuest’s Well being Fairness Heroes and the 2022 winners, introduced on July 13, click here.

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