Monday, August 29, 2011

Our Community Health Champion!

The Boston Business Journal honored Dr. Mark Doherty, Executive Director of the DentaQuest Institute as a 2011 Health Care Champion for his work in expanding the reach of oral health care throughout Massachusett at the 2011 Champions in Health Care breakfast on August 26th.

Dr. Doherty has dedicated his career to expanding access to oral health services for low-income, underinsured and uninsured individuals in Massachusetts and across the country. During a long and illustrious career, Dr. Mark Doherty has been more than a dentist. He has also played the role of businessman, problem solver, oral health advocate, and mentor to other dentists who share his passion for improving the lives of underserved individuals.

When Dr. Doherty speaks about oral health, everyone listens, including lawmakers on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill and federal agencies overseeing community health centers across the United States. Today, Dr. Doherty is working to create partnerships with community health center dental programs and training volunteer dentists who will mentor and coach community health center dental practice staff as they implement improvements to their practices.

Among many honors, Dr. Doherty was selected the 2011 Best Practice Management Consultant by Dr. Bicuspid readers who are dental professionals.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Make oral health a part of the conversation

By Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation

In today’s rocky economic climate, community health centers (CHCs) across the country have become the primary source of medical and dental health care for millions of people. In fact, many refer to CHCs as “America’s health safety net.”

Earlier this month, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced awards of $28.8 million to 67 community health center programs across the country. These funds, made available by the Affordable Care Act, will help establish new health service delivery sites to care for an additional 286,000 patients.

As I stated in my last entry, CHCs provide primary health care services to 23 million individuals, most with limited financial resources; however, not all CHCs have the capacity to provide dental care. To give you a sense of the issue: more than 12 million CHC patients do not have access to dental care services.

DentaQuest Foundation has responded to this challenge with the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative, a $1.75 million investment to strengthen oral health delivery at CHCs across America.

But our investment alone is not enough. According to a recent statement from the American Dental Association (ADA), significant progress with the dental safety net will not occur until the nation places greater emphasis on oral health. We at the DentaQuest Foundation agree. Oral health must be part of the conversation, both at the individual, local community, and government levels.

As the ADA says, “Silence is the enemy. Let’s take the ‘silent’ out of ‘silent epidemic.’”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net

By Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation

When healthcare reform goes into effect in 2014, nearly every child in the United States will have access to dental benefits coverage, through Medicaid expansion and state exchanges, many for the first time. That is an impressive goal.

But it made us wonder how will the existing oral health care delivery system handle this dramatic volume of new individuals seeking care?

One likely source for care will be America’s health safety net of community health centers. Today, 1,250 Community Health Centers in more than 8,000 communities in 50 states and all U.S. territories provide primary health care services to 23 million individuals, most with limited financial resources. Today, not all CHCs have the capacity to provide dental care. In fact, 12 million+ community health center patients do not have access to dental care services.

Our response to this challenge is the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative, a $1.75 million investment to strengthen oral health delivery at community health centers across America. This Initiative is providing oral health leadership development and technical assistance to community health centers at the national, state and local levels in three ways:

1) Through a targeted investment, we are partnering with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to build oral health leadership throughout America’s network of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). NACHC supports its member Primary Care Associations (PCA) and their community health centers with research-based advocacy, training for health center and PCA leadership and boards, and partnerships with key stakeholders to foster the delivery of primary health care services to communities in need. NACHC will now include oral health as part of its education and advocacy work.

2) Through a very competitive Request for Proposal process, the DentaQuest Foundation invested in five state PCAs for the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative. Each PCA will receive funding for oral health technical assistance and leadership development to support the expansion of oral health at their member community health centers. PCAs are the state-based trade associations of health safety net organizations. They are an important partner because they provide training and continuing education, advocacy, and many other services for their member health centers.

3) Finally, up to 5 community health centers in each participating state PCA will receive direct practice improvement technical assistance to either start a new oral health program or strengthen an existing program, provided (in-kind) by the DentaQuest Institute and its Safety Net Solutions team.

We are very pleased to be working with these five PCAs in the Strengthening the Oral Health Safety Net Initiative.

Their work will become a model for PCAs in other states.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Remembering John Rossetti, Advisor, Colleague and Friend

Dr. Mark Doherty, Executive Director, DentaQuest Institute

This week, we lost a good friend and oral health champion with the passing of Dr. John Rossetti. John’s life was dedicated to public service and improving the lives of others. He got his first taste of community-level engagement working in rural health in Central America as one of the first “class” of Peace Corps volunteers. After graduating from dental school, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a Dental Officer in New Mexico and Thailand, providing dental care in the villages surrounding his base. From there, his commitment to public service lead him to join the Indian Health Service, where as the only dentist for two reservations, he learned valuable lessons in prevention, education, early intervention and restorative services. He passed these lessons along to so many peers and public health professionals throughout the years, and his guidance and tutelage made us better at what we do.

As Chief Dental Officer for the Health Resources and Services Administration, John initiated the first ever partnership between a health agency and Medicaid to address access to oral health services for children. And after ‘retiring’ in 2002, he started a new career as a consultant. It was in 2008 that I had the privilege of welcoming John as one of the DentaQuest Institute’s Safety Net Solutions program’s first Expert Advisors – our elite faculty of experienced public health dentists who are mentoring safety net dental programs across the United States.

Mentoring was in John’s soul. He loved interacting with people and connecting the dots. But more than that, he connected pulses -- helping friends share resources and ultimately have more impact both on the profession and on each other. He made us more effective and he taught us to do it with a smile. John was a genuine Pied Piper. Was there anybody more suited to the dental profession? I cannot imagine what his chair side demeanor must have been like!

John was also the ultimate diplomat. He would warn us -- not about people –always about situations to avoid or at least to consider avoiding before blundering ahead. And, when faced with thorny decisions, John always left us a gap through which we could make a graceful exit if we were not able to go where John wished. John loved to navigate or help navigate the tough situation. I actually believe he preferred the help navigate scenario because he so valued the personal relationship part of the journey. Somewhere, he learned that he could accomplish more of his mission by sharing what he had learned with us. Lucky us!

The last time I talked to John he was very sick. He refused to talk about himself and only wanted to know about me and whether I had followed-up on something he had told me I should do. And, as expected, the follow-up was related to friends. What a guy, so unselfish! Another lesson learned.

It has been an honor and privilege to share a part of this nice man’s life. Jeez! I miss John…. All of us at the DentaQuest Institute will.