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

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 eliminate pediatric oral disease and promote overall health and well-being for children from vulnerable populations.”

Pediatric dentistry faculty members Drs. Judith Chin and Joan Kowolik accepted the honor during the NCOHF’s Celebration of Smiles program at the Chicago Hyatt Regency on Feb. 23.

About 70 schools, clinics, and organizations throughout the U.S. are affilitate members of the NCOHF, which has distributed nearly $10 million in direct funding, donated dental products, and technical resources to the affiliate network since 2006.

Calling itself "America's ToothFairy" and revolving several of its key projects around that theme, 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. Chin took the pioneering steps at IU to work with the administration to acquire affiliate membership for the dental school in the NCOHF in 2008. Dr. John Williams, dean of the IU School of Dentistry, currently serves as one of 16 members of the foundation’s board of directors.

IU's pediatric dentistry faculty have been busy making the most of this affiliation by using NCOHF grants to help children in need both at the school and in the field. To date, Dr. Chin has applied for and been awarded more than $368,000 in financial grants and donated dental supplies and equipment. “We have used these donations directly for patient care internally, distributed them to various clinics we partner 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 wants to become an elementary school teacher, so she chose to pay back her dental care by volunteering her services at elementary schools.

In 2011, Dr. Chin coordinated an NCOHF Trick or Treat for America’s Toothfairy fundraiser locally that brought in more than $2,400 to be used at the school for pediatric patient care of youngsters from impoverished backgrounds.

Dr. Kowolik, faculty mentor for the IUSD student volunteers in children’s dentistry known as the Kids Club, says the NCOHF grants have made it possible for the school to provide reduced-cost treatment to families who have fallen on hard times and to accept some referrals of children in need of urgent care from school nurses. She also is looking into working with the Kids Club to start an IU chapter of the NCOHF’s Students United for America’s Toothfairy, a fundraising and awareness-building student action group.

The NCOHF affiliation is valuable, 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.

More information about the foundation is available on the NCOHF Website.

February 1, 2012

Dr. Judith Chin

Dr. Joan Kowolik