Global Health Nexus, Millennium Issue

NYU Dentistry Receives ADA Geriatric Oral Health Care Award

A dental care subsidy program for senior citizens at the New York University College of Dentistry has won the American Dental Association's 1999 Meritorious Award in Geriatric Dentistry. The program, which is supported by a grant from the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, Inc., provides comprehensive oral health care for elderly, impoverished Russian-speaking immigrants in a culturally friendly environment.

In announcing the award, Dean Michael C. Alfano said, "Everyone at the College is thrilled by the ADA's recognition of this innovative program, especially by the way it has enabled the College to promote oral health as an essential component of comprehensive health services for older adults. Thanks to the generosity of the Abrons Foundation -- a staunch supporter of improved access to geriatric health care -- it has been possible since 1997 to identify especially vulnerable new Americans with priority needs, provide them with round-trip bus transportation to the NYU dental clinics, and treat the full extent of their needs."

Among New York's elderly population, many new Americans -- particularly former Soviet émigrés suffering from years of dental neglect and/or poor Soviet dentistry -- have staggering dental needs. Their situation is complicated further by advanced age, lack of mobility, and lack of English language skills -- all major obstacles to seeking dental care. The fact that the entire range of treatment is provided by Russian-speaking NYU student volunteers under faculty supervision has added significantly to the patients' sense of security in a new culture. According to Dean Alfano, "the patients gain from access to students who have special empathy and understanding of their needs, and the students benefit from sensitization to the needs of the elderly that will enable them to practice culturally competent dentistry throughout their careers."

The 1999 Meritorious Award in Geriatric Dentistry was presented at the ADA annual meeting in Honolulu in October. The award is sponsored by the ADA Health Foundation with the support of a generous grant from the Warner-Lambert Company Consumer Health Products Group.