Penn Dental Medicine Hosts Project Accessible Oral Health Meeting


Philadelphia – With the mission to act as a collective catalyst for improving access to oral health care for persons with disabilities, Project Accessible Oral Health (PAOH) was born two years ago with Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean, Dr. Mark Wolff, one of the co-founders. Operating under The Viscardi Center’s network of nonprofit organizations, PAOH is a global public-private partnership — the first nationally to connect a diverse consortium of stakeholders in pursuit of equal access to quality oral health care. Last week, the group gathered at Penn Dental Medicine for its second formal meeting, once again bringing together educators, industry leaders, policymakers, clinicians, caregivers, and people with disabilities to continue to move its mission forward.

The meeting, Champions for Oral Health Care in the Disability Community, was held June 18 at Penn Dental Medicine with a kickoff dinner and “First Steps” Awards on June 17.

The day’s program opened with an update on the development of the PAOH network and partnerships, presented by the three PAOH co-founders — John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center and Chairman of PAOH; Steven Kess, Vice President of Global Professional Relations for Henry Schein, Inc. and Founding President of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation; and Dr. Mark Wolff.

Dr. Mark Wolff, Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean, and John D. Kemp, Chairman of Project Accessible Oral Health

“We were pleased to host this event and continue to work to improve access to quality oral health care for all,” said Dr. Wolff. “Dental schools have an obligation to be a leader in changing care for the disabled. Students need to gain experience treating and understanding persons with disabilities, so when they go into practice, they recognize that as health care providers, treating the disabled in simply part of being a dentist. To improve accessibility, there must be this paradigm shift in dental education and the dental profession.”

Dean Wolff is committed to taking a lead in this area at Penn Dental Medicine. Plans are underway for the Penn Dental Medicine Care Center for Persons with Disabilities, which will provide students with extensive experience treating a full spectrum of individuals and where faculty will help to develop protocols and define oral health maintenance methodologies for individuals and their caregivers to follow.

Presenting the program’s keynote address was Neil Romano, Chairman of the National Council on Disability (NCD). The NCD also provided an update on the HEADs UP Act before Congress and a proposal before a vote by the Commission on Dental Accreditation to add competency in managing patients with disabilities as a requirement within dental school curriculums – both are still pending. The HEADs UP Act would direct the Health Services and Resources Administration to designate people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a Medically Underserved Population, giving access to new primary care and specialist services, incentivize new research, and authorize more favorable reimbursement rates for providers.

Also speaking was Dr. Larry Paul, Vice President of Corporate Dental for AmeriHealth Caritas, on the Inclusive Dental program, a new initiative by the company aimed at expanding community-based dental care for persons with disabilities. Dr. Robert Glickman, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at NYU, shared the patient services and educational resources of the NYU Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities. Author Allen Hornblum discussed the medical experimentation on children that took place in Cold War America. And, three panel discussions – one with athletes and representatives from Special Olympics Pennsylvania and two others with advocates, policymakers, and educators representing a diversity of organizations working within the disabled community – highlighted initiatives and challenges facing each of them. Sharing an international perspective on behalf of Kalman Samuels, Founder and President of Shalva, was Adam Stabholtz of Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, who presented an overview of Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, and its services. In addition, Drs. Takehiko Kato and Kyoko Kuroiwa spoke on the Japanese with Disabilities Act.

About Project Accessible Oral Health
Under The Viscardi Center’s network of 501(c)(3) organizations, Project Accessible Oral Health is a global public-private partnership and the first to nationally assemble and connect a consortium of dental and medical professionals, corporations, organizations, policymakers, educators, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other stakeholders in pursuit of equal access to culturally competent oral healthcare. The Project’s mission is to act as a collective catalyst for change that will not only improve access to oral healthcare, but also ultimately improve the overall health of the disability community. Project Accessible Oral Health’s founders include John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center, Steve W. Kess, Vice President of Global Professional Relations, Henry Schein, Inc. and Co-Founder of Henry Schein Cares and Dr. Mark Wolff, Morton Amsterdam Dean at Penn Dental Medicine. Learn more at