When Wynette Bender visited her grandfather in a nursing home, she witnessed something she had never seen before – he was in tears. The pain from his teeth was overwhelming.
“The facility didn’t have anyone on staff for dental care, and the process to get him into an appointment and to get transportation would mean a long wait,” she said.
Bender, now a second-year dental student at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), remembers her own struggles with getting proper dental care and wants to change this pattern of inequity in her community.
“I’ve been there,” she continued. “I want to help overlooked communities start the journey of recovery.”
When Molina Healthcare formed The MolinaCares Accord in 2020, one of its goals was getting to the root causes of the problems plaguing the health care system, such as the lack of educational opportunities critical to growing a workforce that can improve access to needed services.
Last year, The MolinaCares Accord, in conjunction with Molina Healthcare of Ohio, launched the Dental Scholarship Program and committed $1.4 million to CWRU School of Dental Medicine and The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Dentistry to fund student scholarships over four years. The recipients are asked to practice dentistry upon graduation in a dental shortage area of Ohio and to treat underserved patients, including those covered by Medicaid.
CWRU’s 2021 scholarship recipients are:
- Gabrielle Dean
- Wynette Bender
- Otis Bevel
- Alisha Thompson
OSU’s 2021 scholarship recipients are:
- Dante Davis
- Andre Evans
- Davern Holloway
- Mosep Okonny
“The Dental Scholarship Program will increase the number of Black and other minority dentists serving low-income communities across the state,” said Ami Cole, plan president for Molina Healthcare of Ohio. “It will expand access to dental care for people in these communities, especially among minorities who typically use these services more when they are provided by minority dentists.”
Access to dental care is a serious issue in low-income and minority communities, with recent research indicating Black adults suffer from untreated dental disease two times more frequently when compared with their white counterparts and Hispanic adults are 1.5 times more likely than their white counterparts. Unmet dental needs have a profound impact on a person’s health and their economic opportunity, as people in low-income communities are 100 times more likely to experience difficulties doing their job because of oral health conditions, and they are 200 times more likely to have oral pain than those at higher incomes. Poor oral health can lead to serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, pneumonia and even pregnancy complications.
Said scholarship recipient Gabrielle Dean, “I’m so thankful that MolinaCares has recognized the need [for representation] and wants to address it.”
*Some information and quotes used courtesy of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine Magazine