Health Equity Heroes

Health Equity Hero Logo2023 Healthy Equity Heroes Awards

Nominations have now closed. Check back on July 13, Health Equity Hero Day, and help us honor individuals or organizations improving health care access for people with the greatest needs and fewest resources.

Meet the 2022 Heroes!

The 2022 Healthy Equity Hero Awards celebrate disruptors championing change in existing health systems to enable equitable access to oral care and overall health outcomes. Their impact can be felt across the nation, helping our country’s most vulnerable populations access quality health care.

Join us in celebrating their remarkable efforts!
Alex Barrera, DDS
Alex Barrera, DDS
Houston Equality Dental Network
The experience of being a gay dentist and working with patients who have faced discrimination inspired Dr. Alex Barrera and colleagues to create the Houston Equality Dental Network (HEDN), an organized dentistry group specifically for LGBTQ+ dental professionals and patients. The LGBTQ+ community is identified as a “health disparity population” due to its lowered access to health care. Over the past three years, HEDN has provided free education to dental professionals on topics unique to the LGBTQ+ community. HEDN also holds oral health information sessions for LGBTQ+ groups and free virtual dental consultations to help LGBTQ+ individuals gain access to dental care. In honor of Dr. Barrera, DentaQuest is making a donation to support Houston Equality Dental Network.
Jeannie McGee Bath, DDS Jeannie McGee Bath, DDS
Dental Director
Good Shepherd Ministries
Dr. Jeannie McGee Bath has had a special connection to Good Shepherd Ministries free care clinic where she volunteered regularly since dental school. Since then, Dr. Bath has been part of the growth and expansion of the clinic, working with patients with diabetes and periodontal disease to improve their A1C levels and evolve their treatment plans as needed. Dr. Bath is also preparing the next generation of dentists, mentoring volunteer college and dental school students (University of Oklahoma and University of Central Oklahoma) as they learn about the art and science of dentistry. Dr. Bath’s Health Equity Hero donation will benefit Good Shepherd Ministries.
Dan Burch DDS Dan Burch, DDS
Clinical Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University
Department of Pediatric Dentistry
Finding dental care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) can be challenging. Knowing this, Dr. Dan Burch also was aware that many programs that did support pediatric I/DD and special needs populations wanted to serve these patients throughout their lifespan, but needed help. To meet the need, Dr. Burch launched the Compromised Care and Hospital Dentistry Fellowship at Texas A&M College of Dentistry, the nation’s first minority-centered special care dentistry postdoctoral fellowship. In just two years, the program has led to an increase in access to care for more than 15,000 special needs patients and its success has served as a blueprint for other dental programs across the country. DentaQuest’s donation honoring Dr. Burch is going to the Texas A&M Foundation.
Rhonda Butler Rhonda Butler
Louisiana State Representative
Dental care is the number one unmet need among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Lack of access to comprehensive dental care for these adults creates an over-dependence and strain on hospital emergency rooms. For Louisiana state Rep. Rhonda Butler, a parent of an adult with I/DD, prevention is key. In an effort to expand access to care for this population, she successfully championed legislation to enable I/DD adults over the age of 21 to access a dental program provider and get needed services through the state. These changes will prevent or reduce the impact of illness on the individuals and their families. Rep. Butler asked that the DentaQuest Equity Hero contribution support St. Mary’s Residential Training School.
Karen Carson
Hollie Kozak
Karen Carson MS PT
Summa Health Senior Physical Therapist
Summa Health Co-chair LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group

Hollie Kozak
Summa Health – Division Director
Summa Health Co-Chair LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group
Karen Carson and Hollie Kozak often observed disparities during their years working in health care. When they joined Summa Health’s first Diversity Advisory Council in the early 2000s, they paved the way for employee resource groups (ERG) including A PLUS, a LGBTQ-supporting ERG that created a safe space for discussion and change. Hollie and Karen also saw an opportunity for a health clinic focused on the needs of LGBTQ+ people in the Akron, Ohio area. Summa Health opened its PRIDE Clinic in 2019 and by the end of 2021 was serving patients from 26 counties across Ohio and out of state. It is Hollie and Karen’s dream to help Summa Health engage this community that has a fear of health care with a clinic that treats the person as a whole, staffed by health care teams who are passionate about understanding their patients’ needs. The DentaQuest donation in honor of Hollie and Karen will go to the PRIDE Clinic.
Howard Cowen, DDS, MS, DABBSCD, FICD Howard Cowen DDS, MS, DABSCD, FICD
Director of Geriatric & Special Needs Dentistry
University of Iowa, College of Dentistry
As the U.S. population of older adults (65+ years of age) continues to grow, the need for geriatric dental care specialists is increasing. Dr. Howard Cowen of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry has been educating generations of geriatric and special needs dentists for the past 40 years. As part of his mission to educate on geriatric dental care, he manages the college’s geriatric care mobile van, which visits area nursing homes to provide comprehensive care (fillings, extractions, dentures, partials, implant supported dentures) for chronically ill and compromised individuals. The DentaQuest Health Equity Hero donation will support the Howard J. Cowen Geriatric and Special Needs Scholarship Fund of the University of Iowa Alumni Association.
Kavitha P. Das, BDS, MPH, MS Kavitha P. Das, BDS, MPH, MS
Purpose Med Solutions, Senior Executive Director, Research & Management
New York State Public Health Association, Chair, Policy & Advocacy Committee
Journal of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Deputy Editor
Dentist, academic and social entrepreneur Dr. Kavitha Das is working to improve the health and wellbeing of residents of diverse urban communities in New York and New Jersey who have a predisposition to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and oral cancer with lifelong consequences. Her goal is to change the inevitability of these diseases for children and families. Dr. Das leads behind-the-scenes engagement and public policy work, meeting with principals, school and community leaders, and clergy groups to highlight the opportunity for change, align on what can be done and create an action plan that builds trust and engagement. DentaQuest is making a donation to Legion of Good Will in honor of Dr. Das.
Stefanie Etienne, MD Stefanie Etienne, MD
Interim Medical Director
Wake County Health and Human Services
Family physician Dr. Stefanie Etienne worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to help provide vaccines to more than 15,000 people from underserved communities. She oversees health clinics for Wake County Health and Human Services, the largest (and healthiest) county in North Carolina. One such clinic is the Refugee Clinic where Dr. Etienne and staff cared for more than 700 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Congo in 2021. The clinic is expecting another 200 refugees from Ukraine in 2022. The dental clinic has provided more than 4,200 preventive visits at no cost to uninsured children since 2017. DentaQuest is making a donation in honor of Dr. Etienne to Project Hope Community.
Lorraine LaPorte, LSW Lorraine LaPorte, LSW
New Life Medical Addiction Services
Lorraine LaPorte will tell you people take their teeth for granted, not appreciating how impactful teeth are to self-esteem, health, appearance, and the ability to secure work. As of now, oral health care is not part of recovery for those suffering from substance use disorder. Lori is working to change that. As a social worker and substance abuse counselor, Lori is a wellness advocate, helping people on the streets, intervening in crisis situations and providing critical case management and counseling at drug and alcohol residential programs. She is also partnering with The National Council for Mental Wellbeing on a framework for integrating and coordinating oral health and mental health care within treatment programs. DentaQuest is making a donation in honor of Lorraine LaPorte to Mercy Hospice.
Lilia Larin, DDS Lilia Larin, DDS
Diverse Dental Society
Hispanic Dental Association
San Diego County Dental Society
According to a CDC report, Hispanics under the age of 50 experienced higher rates of Covid-19 infection compared to the general U.S. population. Dr. Lila Larin, a community dentist and oral health advocate, saw that fear of the virus and the vaccine was hurting the Spanish-speaking community. She joined the San Diego County Medical Reserve as a volunteer vaccinator, one of the few and often the only Spanish-speaking volunteer vaccinator, and was interviewed about the vaccines on English- and Spanish-speaking television. Dr. Larin also distributed vaccination-safety talking points to members of the Hispanic Dental Association and helped educate state and federal legislators on oral health and the vaccines. DentaQuest is honoring Dr. Larin with a donation to the Hispanic Dental Association Foundation.
Mary E. Martin Mary E. Martin, DDS
Smiles for Success
A co-founder of Smiles for Success in 1995, Dr. Mary E. Martin rejoined the nonprofit organization’s board in 2017 to restart the program. Smiles for Success helps women completing job training programs while transitioning from welfare, homelessness, or incarceration access the dental care they need to approach job interviews with confidence. The life-transforming dental care is provided pro bono by members of American Association of Women Dentists working with affiliate programs in Boston, Abilene and Austin, Denver, Baltimore and Pensacola with more locations to come. Dr. Martin has asked that her Health Equity Hero donation be used to support Smiles for Success.
Mira Yang Mira Yang
Program Manager
Early Smiles Sacramento, Center for Oral Health
Believing preventive dentistry is the best dentistry, Mira Yang and the team at Early Smiles Sacramento, a program of the Center for Oral Health, provide preventive dental screenings and fluoride treatments for more than 27,000 children in Sacramento’s Title 1 schools in 13 public school districts. When a child needs immediate care due to active dental disease, Mira and her team connect them with dental care within 24 to 48 hours and even arrange transportation and translation services. The DentaQuest donation in honor of Mira Yang will go to Tooth Fairies of California.