VOCARE – One Year In

An Update on the Collaboration between NYU Dentistry and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

NYU College of Dentistry is celebrating the first anniversary of the Veterans Oral Care Access Resource (VOCARE), part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VETSmile program. VETSmile is a pilot program that is designed to improve dental care access for veterans who are not eligible for dental care through the VA by partnering with community providers like NYU.

During the first year of VETSmile/VOCARE at NYU Dentistry (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022), 1,022 veterans received dental care over a total of 5,643 visits. More than 10,000 procedures were completed.

“As the son of a veteran, I’ve seen firsthand the difficulty that veterans can face accessing oral health care. It has been an honor to work with the VA over the past year to bridge this gap and provide care for those who have served our country,” said Michael O’Connor, executive vice dean of NYU Dentistry, who leads the VETSmile/VOCARE project.

VOCARE – One Year In

Veteran Nelson Villalobos at NYU Dentistry in Manhattan with student doctor Adriana Mediavilla, ’22, and Dr. George Raymond. © Sorel: NYU Photo Bureau

Nelson Villalobos was one of the 1,022 veterans seen at NYU Dentistry during the first year of the VETSmile/VOCARE program. Having worked in a dental lab, he knew about the importance of oral health, but had long neglected his own dental care. After learning about VETSmile/VOCARE from the VA, he said, “I ran—not walked—right over to the NYU dental school to sign up for the program. I am so grateful to the Manhattan VA for referring me to the program.” And his new smile? “It has changed my whole life,” he said.

    


    

Dr. Brian Eng and veteran Tony Petrozza at NYU Dentistry Brooklyn Patient Care. © Sorel: NYU Photo Bureau

Dr. Brian Eng and veteran Tony Petrozza at NYU Dentistry Brooklyn Patient Care. © Sorel: NYU Photo Bureau

 

Tony Petrozza, an Army veteran, also received dental care as part of VETSmile/VOCARE. He told ADA News, “Just like soldiers get the job done, these dentists get the job done. They have been fantastic.”

VETSmile/VOCARE is a partnership between NYU Dentistry and the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, which includes campuses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Through the program, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System refers veterans who are not eligible to receive dental services at the VA to NYU for comprehensive care.

Veterans are seen at NYU College of Dentistry in Manhattan and at NYU Dentistry Brooklyn Patient Care. Some veterans, including those with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, are seen at the NYU Dentistry Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities, where the staff are trained with special skill sets to ensure quality treatment and holistic care for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.

VOCARE is supported in part by grants from the United Concordia Dental Charitable Fund and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which provides funding specifically for dental care for veterans with blood cancer.