June 2023 CT Oral Health Heroes
In honor of National Oral Health Month in June, the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership is once again recognizing Oral Health Heroes. These three heroes join a distinguished group of dental practitioners, oral health advocates and community partners who are committed to exemplary oral health for Connecticut HUSKY Health members. Help us congratulate our new heroes and read more about them:
Hartford HealthCare Neighborhood Health Initiative
In May 2022, The CT Dental Health Partnership established a collaboration with Hartford HealthCare Neighborhood Health initiative to reach underserved clients mostly in the Hartford area, in order to connect them to dental care. The Neighborhood Health initiative is designed to bring prevention services and support directly to people and communities. Their mobile van operates day clinics offering a variety of services, including screenings, mental health counseling and medical referrals. We offered to participate at those clinics to provide oral health education, and to assist HUSKY Health members in finding a dentist. This collaboration led to the development of our HUSKY Dental Pop-Up Resource Centers. Hartford HealthCare’s Neighborhood Health staff recognizes we are experts in dental care. They have incorporated oral health as part of their overall services, and have referred many clients to our program. As a result, we are connecting more and more HUSKY Health members with dental care, and we have expanded our Pop-Up Resource Centers to a wider variety of community organizations.
CTDHP Community Engagement Specialists Sandra Sapere and Luis Miguel Ayala with some of the Hartford HealthCare Neighborhood Health team.
Dr. Ishrat Rangwala
Dr. Ishrat Rangwala, Dental Director for Family Centers Health Care (Greenwich, CT), has been a true partner in the work of the CT Dental Health Partnership and in its quality improvement efforts. Her insights have informed policy in the state and her active participation in the Dental Policy Advisory Committee has been appreciated.
Dr. Rangwala believes patient education is the key factor in oral disease prevention and management. She encourages patients to take a holistic approach to oral hygiene and often recommends small diet and lifestyle changes in addition to brushing and flossing. Preventative oral healthcare is integrated in a patient’s overall health plan.
Dr. Rangwala and her team provide compassionate care by going above and beyond, such as providing flexible scheduling and creating a supportive experience to ease anxieties, so that each patient has a positive visit. Her team hard-wires patient preferences into their scheduling module and always remembers to schedule with “compassion” as a two-way partnership between the practice and the patient. Dr. Rangwala’s tireless efforts have greatly improved the dental care of the local community.
Dr. Rangwala with her Oral Health Hero award along with Family Centers Health Care team members Monica Padilla, Office Manager; Karina Hurtado, Dental Assistant; Marinice Paul, Administrative Assistant and Joseph Hurtado, PA.
Dr. Pieter Joost van Wattum
In all walks of professional life, the question of mental health invariably surfaces. Whether we are a HUSKY Health member, or an Oral Health Navigator who helps HUSKY Health members, we seek realistic and helpful guidance from a behavioral health expert. Dr. Pieter Joost van Wattum typifies these qualities we seek. With years of expertise as a psychiatrist at Yale-New Haven Hospital and, most currently Carelon Behavioral Health, Dr. van Wattum graciously advises us during our Oral Health Navigation monthly case conference with Carelon Behavioral Health and Community Health Network of CT. Our casework can be challenging, and there are often many barriers to overcome to ensure our members receive the oral health care they need. With Dr. van Wattum’s insight, we approach each individual situation with a simple, straightforward perspective.
His advice? Take a deep breath, listen, don’t take things personally, let the member vent, offer help within the best of your ability, set timelines, follow up with the member – these are his tenets. While our goal is to link members to a dental provider who can meet their acute oral healthcare needs, it is important to assess, plan and remove/reduce barriers which may get in the way of receiving needed care. Mental health challenges are a barrier to accessing quality care but with Dr. van Wattum’s guidance, we are learning how to best serve members’ needs.
CTDHP Oral Health Navigator Elaine Spinato presenting Dr. van Wattum with his Oral Health Hero award.
February 2023 CT Oral Health Heroes
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. To celebrate the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership is awarding four Oral Health Heroes – selected for their exemplary services to HUSKY Health children. The following medical doctors, dentists, oral healthcare professionals and community partners at community-based organizations are recognized for going above and beyond to meet the oral health needs of HUSKY Health Members. Read about them here:
Dr. Jamie Alon and the team at Pediatric Associates of Western Connecticut
Dr. Alon has been working with the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership’s Access to Baby Care (ABC) program over the last 8 months. She ensures that providers at Pediatric Associates of Western Connecticut are trained and providing oral health assessments and fluoride varnish applications to HUSKY Health children under the age of seven at their well-child visit.
Dr. Alon is data and mission driven and a no-nonsense leader. At every call and meeting she’s asking, “how can we be better” and noting that oral health assessment and fluoride varnish “is just the right thing to do.” And it’s working. With her leadership, Pediatric Associates of Western Connecticut went from a 50% fluoride varnish rate at well-child visits to 80%.
Her partnership with the CT Dental Health Partnership has made us better too. Because of our work with Dr. Alon, we have been able to develop the reporting capacity to identify the oral health assessment and fluoride varnish application rates of all practices that provided well-child visits to HUSKY Health members. This has helped us reach other pediatric and family practices to support increasing their oral health assessment and fluoride rates.
IRIS – Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services
The staff at the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) are tireless advocates and supporters of refugees and immigrants in Connecticut. Over the past two years IRIS’s case management and health coordination teams have worked with the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership’s Member Care and Community Engagement Team. They collaborate to ensure HUSKY Health members who need acute oral health services, receive the necessary dental services. They especially focus on children with complex oral health needs. The IRIS team also ensures that services are delivered in a cultural and linguistically appropriate way.
True to IRIS’s mission of empowering refugees and immigrants to become self-sufficient, IRIS has elevated oral health literacy to its clients. This includes training and education on proper oral hygiene techniques and preventative oral health habits to children and families. The staff at IRIS are Oral Health Heroes and beyond!
Dr. Moises Salas
Dr. Salas is a pediatric dentist affiliated with UConn Health. He enjoys serving his community and is passionate about helping children who live in urban or rural areas overcome the barriers to accessing quality dental care. His ultimate goal is to create positive relationships with the patient’s family and lay foundations that will carry into adulthood. He has collaborated with CTDHP for over a decade. Dr. Salas participated in the Perinatal and Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement (PIOHQI) project to increase the percentage of infants receiving preventive oral health care. Also, he promoted the incorporation of a medical-dental integration program at Charter Oak Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Hartford, to achieve children’s health equity.
Dr. Salas completed his residency training at the University of Puerto Rico and the Autonomous University of Nuevo León in Mexico. He also earned a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Connecticut. In addition to caring for patients at Brooker Memorial in Torrington one day a week, Dr. Salas is an attending pediatric dentist at CCMCUConn Pediatric Dentistry in West Hartford. He is also an attending pediatric dentist, clinical assistant professor, and pediatric dentist provider at Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford. And, he volunteers at South Park House Shelter in Hartford, Special Olympics Connecticut, Mission of Mercy, and the “Give Kids a Smile” program.
CTDHP Community Engagement Specialist Luis Miguel Ayala giving Dr. Salas his Oral Health Hero award.
Mrs. Nebby Sanchez
Mrs. Nebby Sanchez is the Family School Liaison for the New Britain Family Resource Center located at Smalley FRC. She oversees the Family Resource Center sites at Smith, Jefferson and Chamberlain schools in New Britain.
The Family Resource Center provides education and outreach to parents, early childhood parenting workshops, and Play & Learn Together groups. The Center also has a resource library on parenting and related topics, and helps to connect parents with community resources. Mrs. Nebby Sanchez has been instrumental in our efforts to promote dental care utilization of preventive services for HUSKY Health members. She has included oral health topics as part of the Center’s education materials to parents. She is an advocate of oral health education, prevention, and the importance of bringing children to the dentist at an early age.
Mrs. Nebby makes sure all children enrolled in the program have a dentist, and are up to date with their cleanings. Mrs. Nebby has coordinated a “Brush & Floss” training for her Play & Learn Together group of children and their moms. With her assistance, The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership is planning to extend this training to other schools.
CTDHP Community Engagement Specialist Sandra Sapere giving Mrs. Sanchez her Oral Health Hero award.
June 2022 CT Oral Health Heroes
Many healthcare workers in our hospitals and health care facilities are recognized as heroes for their commitment to patient care. There are also dentists, oral healthcare professionals and community partners who go above and beyond to meet the oral health needs of those in their care. And since June is National Oral Health Month, The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership awarded Oral Health Heroes – selected for their exemplary services to CT families. Read about them here:
Amy D. Gagliardi IBCLC, RLC – Statewide
Amy is a tremendous advocate for Oral health in Connecticut. She has been a strong supporter of perinatal women in her role as Director of the Maternal and Infant Program at Community Health Center in Middletown. She was actively involved in CTDHP projects that increased the dental utilization rate for perinatal women in HUSKY Health. Amy has also worked with the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative and the March of Dimes to promote oral health for perinatal women. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medical Sciences, with the Department of Medical Sciences of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. She is also an Associate Investigator for the Weitzman Institute in Middletown, Chief Operating Officer for Lily’s Kids Inc. a non-profit organization in Hartford and a lead for the internationally renowned Text4baby program. She is also Co-Chair of the Women and Children’s Health Committee, Council Member and Executive Board Member of the Medical Assistance Program Oversight Council (MAPOC), a committee of the Connecticut General Assembly and a member of the Board of Directors and Chair, Advocacy and Government Affairs, Connecticut March of Dimes of Dimes. In the photo: Award winner Amy Gagliardi (l) with CTDHP Nominator Marty Milkovic (r).
Mr. Harvey Leon Frydman is an oral health advocate and has been active and involved with the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership for many years, encouraging and educating people to maintain good physical and oral health. He serves as the director of the Naugatuck Senior Center and The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership participates in the Center’s yearly Wellness Day and Naugatuck Senior Day. These events attracts over 500 attendees where Seniors have been able to meet with future dentists and dental hygienists from the Fones Dental School and Tunxis Community College’s Dental Program. Attendees benefit from current information on the importance of maintaining good oral health throughout one’s life.
In the photo: CTDHP Nominator Martin Schneeberger (l) with award winner Harvey Frydman (r).
Helene Strazza, DMD – Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, Derby
Dr. Strazza is a pediatric dentist who is dedicated to HUSKY Health members, going above and beyond to provide the best service possible. She coordinates dental care and at times refers clients to community resources to help them overcome barriers that interfere with their access to dental care. She also provides assistance to uninsured children, and partners with local pediatricians to support medical-dental integration initiatives. She is active in community events and collaborates to improve oral health awareness. Nominated by Karina Reininger, CTDHP.
February 2022 CT Oral Health Heroes
Since February is Children’s Dental Health Month, The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership awarded Oral Health Heroes – selected for their exemplary services to children. Read about them here:
Ronald J. Albert, DMD, Manchester, CT – Dr. Albert has been a part of the HUSKY insurance program for many years. He is one of the few dentists in the state who routinely sees HUSKY children in an operating room setting at CCMC and Johnson Surgical Center. He has a dedicated full day in his schedule to see patients in the OR while transporting his own equipment to the facility when needed. Due to recent demand Dr. Albert closed his office to the public to strictly devote his time to seeing children in an OR setting. Nominated by Tyra Monteiro, CTDHP Care Coordination Supervisor.
Linda Conti, RDH BS, Greenwich, CT
Linda has been a dental champion at the town of Greenwich for many, many years leading the town’s Dental Hygiene Program at all the Pre-Schools, Head Start Program and K-12. She is the “go to” person in her community to find dental resources for the children. In some occasions, she also secures pro-bono dental services for uninsured kids.
She is a key collaborator with CTDHP to bring comprehensive dental services to the Town of Greenwich in a pilot program that includes the Head Start, and New Lebanon Pre-K and K-5. Nominated by Karina Reininger, CTDHP Outreach Lead covering Southwest CT.
Nishit R. Modi, DMD, Southington, CT
Dr. Nishit Modi was nominated for always accepting emergent referrals for HUSKY Health members of all ages no matter the day or time. In the field of dentistry for the last 13 years, Dr. Modi graduated from Boston University, where he was awarded his Doctorate of Dental Medicine. Dentistry has always been his first passion. He enjoys practicing cosmetic and restorative dentistry and has a special interest in performing oral surgery procedures, which include implant surgeries and root canal treatments. He also has a special interest in finding oral health solutions for children. Nominated by Paulette Sapp, CTDHP Member Services Supervisor.
Alexis Tomarelli, RN, Naugatuck CT
“Lexi” is the school nurse at the Naugatuck Head Start with 121 enrolled children, ages 3 to 5 years old. She is very involved in her student’s oral health and is instrumental in getting her kids to go to the dentist regularly. Lexi was nominated because the current pandemic has not stopped her from educating her enrolled children on how to brush and floss. She encourages and reminds them daily how important it is to have clean teeth, especially after eating.
As the kids are leaving school for the day, she reminds them not to forget to brush and floss at home. She reports her students are happy to receive the free oral health care kits provided to them from the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership and come to school excited to tell her they brushed and flossed at home! Nominated by Martin Schneeberger, CTDHP Dental Health Care Specialist who covers the Northwest region in CT.
2021 CT Oral Health Heroes
The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership introduced its first group of distinguished Oral Health Heroes in July 2021. These individuals are honored as everyday people doing extraordinary work improving oral health in Connecticut. Oral Health Heroes are selected based on their demonstrated commitment, dedication and passion in providing excellent oral health services to HUSKY Health members in the state.
Please join us in congratulating them.
Our Distinguished Award Winners
|Sandra Carbonari, MD FAAP
CT Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Medical Director
|Demetress L, Davis DDS, MDSC
|Joseph N. Sciarrino, DDS
Strawberry Hill Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center
|Jeffrey S. Berkley, DDS
CT Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center
|Reza Radmand, DMD
Advanced Dentistry of CT
|Darnell Young, DMD
True Pediatric Dental Care
2021 Community Partners Acknowledgements
Meet our Community Partners who Received Certificates of Acknowledgement
- Susan Consoli – Youth & Family Services of Old Saybrook
- Kestine Osbourne – WIC Program Norwalk
- Lisa Hallock – Women’s Health CT
- Christy Georgoulis – The Institute for Communities
- Glenda Rosario – Saint Francis Dental Clinic
- Ted Shackford – Community Ally
- Heather Sperry – UCONN Dental Clinic
- Kari Cifarelli – New Haven MOMS Partnership