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IU Dental School Is National Children's Oral Health Foundation's "Affiliate of the Year"


February 24, 2012

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The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF) has named Indiana University School of Dentistry “Affiliate of the Year” for the school’s ongoing support of the foundation’s mission to prevent oral disease in children and to promote overall health and well-being for children from vulnerable populations.

IU pediatric dentistry faculty members Drs. Judith Chin and Joan Kowolik accepted the honor during the NCOHF’s “Celebration of Smiles” program in Chicago on Feb. 23.

Since 2006 the NCOHF has distributed nearly $10 million in direct funding, donated dental products, and technical resources to the affiliate network, composed of about 70 U.S. schools, clinics, and organizations. Calling itself “America’s ToothFairy,” the foundation serves to raise awareness of the country's oral health crisis through education, prevent dental disease in children, and protect the nation's most vulnerable kids.

Dr. Judith Chin led efforts to acquire affiliate NCOHF membership for the IU dental school in 2008. The school’s dean, Dr. John Williams, Jr., currently serves on the foundation’s board of directors.

The foundation has awarded Dr. Chin more than $368,000 in donated dental supplies and equipment to date. “We have used these donations directly for patient care at the school, distributed them to various clinics the dental school partners with throughout Indiana, and taken them abroad to help children in nations that IU’s dental teams visit through the International Service Learning Program,” says Dr. Chin.

Dr. Chin involves IU in the foundation’s “Tomorrow’s Smiles” program, in which older teens in need are selected for free dental work that the patient then finds a way to “pay back” through volunteerism. One teen selected for treatment locally, for example, wants to become an elementary school teacher, so she chose to pay back her dental care by volunteering her services at elementary schools.

Dr. Joan Kowolik, who is the faculty mentor of the Kids Club, the dental school’s organization for students who volunteer in the community, says the NCOHF grants have made it possible for the school to provide reduced-cost treatment to some families who have fallen on hard times and to accept some referrals from school nurses of children in need of urgent care. She is working with the Kids Club to start an IU chapter of the foundation’s Students United for America’s ToothFairy, a fundraising and awareness-building student action group.

The NCOHF affiliation is important, says Dr. Kowolik, because it has “double-dip” value – the foundation’s grants make it possible for children to get the treatment they urgently need, and dental students in turn gain important experiences and knowledge in caring for underserved patients.