July 16, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass.— The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Michigan has awarded a two-year grant totaling $176,500 to the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) to help expand the reach and services of the Central Massachusetts Oral Health Initiative (CMOHI).

The Kellogg grant, matched by funds from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, will bring CMOHI’s screening and sealant program to hundreds of school children in Webster and Southbridge, launch a dental residency program at UMMS to bring needed oral health services into the emergency departments of city hospitals and fund a pilot program to recruit area dentists back to the Medicaid program to provide services for low-income people. “The Kellogg grant is extremely exciting because we’ll be using the funds for new and innovative programs,” said John P. Gusha, DMD, a dentist in private practice and project director of the CMOHI. “These are initiatives we’ve been talking about for quite some time and now the Kellogg grant gives us the resources to implement them.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Gusha, the CMOHI is a coalition of numerous community groups, including the Worcester District Dental Society and the Worcester District Medical Society, focused on improving access to oral health services in the region.  The CMOHI established a clinic at Quinsigamond Community College in 2001 where some 59 area dentists and a cadre of hygienists volunteer their time to treat people who have no dental health coverage or access to dental services.  To date, about 1,200 dental visits have been conducted at the clinic, which is managed by Great Brook Valley Health Center— an important provider of dental services to under-served populations in Worcester, along with the downtown Family Health Center, both of which receive support from The Health Foundation.

The CMOHI also supports UMass Memorial Health Care’s Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® that has brought dental screening and sealant services to more than 1,500 children in the Worcester Public Schools. “There is an alarming level of oral disease in our schools. We have far too many kids with painful situations and we need to respond to them. We also need to provide the preventative services to other children to keep them from suffering oral disease,” said Michael E. Huppert, associate dean for community programs at UMMS and project administrator for the CMOHI.

With the Kellogg grant and matching funds from The Health Foundation, the CMOHI plans to bring the screening and sealant program to 700 second graders in the Webster and Southbridge school districts.   The Kellogg grant and matching funds will also be used to set up a residency program for dentists at UMMS, perhaps in conjunction with one of the Boston-based dental schools.  While still in the developmental stage, the pilot program will likely bring four dentists to Worcester for a multi-year graduate residency program. The residents would be trained by Central Massachusetts dentists and be based in city hospitals to provide emergency dental services. “Right now, there is no structured hospital emergency coverage for oral health, nor is there any hospital-based dental component that can address the oral health needs of patients who are seriously ill and need dental services,” said Dr. Gusha. “That’s why both the medical and dental societies felt it was very important to establish this residency program.”

To begin breaking down a major barrier to accessing dental services for many Central Massachusetts residents, a portion of the Kellogg grant and matching funds will be used to set up and administer a pilot program to recruit dentists to accept a limited number of Medicaid patients into their practice. In recent years, difficulties with Medicaid reimbursements and program requirements prompted many area dentists to close their practices to Medicaid patients. However, legislation sponsored by state Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, created a “caseload pilot program” for dentists in Central Massachusetts. The program will allow dentists to accept only a limited number of Medicaid patients, thereby providing services to that segment of the population while maintaining an acceptable balance of private-paying patients.

With the lack of fluoridation in many area communities and the continuing challenges faced by the Medicaid and uninsured populations, CMOHI leaders say the dental health of Central Massachusetts remains in a crisis state and the Kellogg grant couldn’t have come at a better time. “I am delighted that the Kellogg Foundation, one of the top ten funders in the country, with its reputation for helping communities, has teamed up with The Health Foundation to further the work of the oral health initiative,” said Janice B. Yost, EdD, president of The Health Foundation.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation ( ) is one of the country’s leading philanthropic organizations whose mission is to apply knowledge to solve the problems of people. Its founder, the cereal industry pioneer W.K. Kellogg, established the Foundation in 1930. Since its beginning the Foundation has continuously focused on building the capacity of individuals, communities and institutions to solve their own problems.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School ( ) is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $143 million in research funding annually.  A perennial top finisher in the annual US News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service.

Contact: Michael Cohen, 508-856-2000