In 1998, Dean Goldberg approached Saint Luke’s Foundation for grants to support research. That request was denied. The grant the School of Dental Medicine came away with instead was more than $40,000 to pilot the Healthy Smiles Sealant Program; operating funds totaling more than $3.2 million over the first seven years was beyond Dean Goldberg’s grandest hopes at the time.
Healthy Smiles, which has become a model service learning program nation-ally, involves all dental students in the application of a plastic sealants over the biting surfaces of the teeth of all second and sixth graders in the Cleveland Municipal School District.
“Poor children still have a lot of risk factors: poor eating habits, not brushing their teeth adequately, and poor access to health care. A lot of the kids we see in the public schools don’t even have a toothbrush,” explained Dr. James Lalumandier, Chair of the Department of Community Dentistry, who runs the Healthy Smiles Program. “Sealants can be very effective in preventing caries on the biting surfaces of back teeth.”
Rarely does a foundation give money to launch a new initiative and then stay with the program by funding its operating budget on an ongoing basis. That is exactly what Saint Luke’s Foundation has done with the Healthy Smiles Sealant Program.
“Saint Luke’s is a truly remarkable organization with outstanding leadership,” said Dean Jerold Goldberg. “With them we have a real partnership that is clearly focused on making sure that we improve the health and well being of the children of Cleveland.”
After a successful pilot in 1999, the Foundation informed the Dental School that it was ready to support taking the program district-wide. In 2001-2002, the program reached kids in approximately 50 schools. By 2003, the program had expanded to include 75 schools. Today, all K-8 Cleveland Municipal Schools are serviced. In addition to applying the sealants, dental students provide hygiene education and conduct examinations of all students, making referrals to either the Dental School, City Dental Clinics, or to volunteer dentists when immediate intervention is required.
“Our bet was with Dr. Lalumandier,” explained Denise Zeman, President and CEO of Saint Luke’s Foundation. “We saw something in him that when you see it you really want to nurture it. He said, ‘I will not be satisfied until the kids in the city of Cleveland have the same opportunity for dental care as my kids do in Hudson, OH.’ We’ve gotten nothing but pride from our work with the Dental School.”
A conversion foundation, Saint Luke’s Foundation was established in 1997 with funds from the endowment which remained when Saint Luke’s Medical Center was sold to a for-profit partnership. The Board of the Foundation is committed to making grants to support health, health care, human services, and neighborhood empowerment, with a special commitment to the neighborhoods traditionally served by the Saint Luke’s Medical Center.
The Foundation’s approach to giving is two-fold. Approximately 45% of annual grant making is done in the form of “community grants,” usually grants of less than $150,000 per year over a one to three year period. The remaining 55% of grants are what the Foundation calls “transformational initiatives,” larger, longer-term grants designed to make long-term, systemic change. The grant which funds Healthy Smiles falls into this latter category. “This grant is transformational because it creates the opportunity for Cleveland’s children to have a dental home,” Ms. Zeman said. “It also sensitizes the next generation of dentists to the needs of the underserved.”
“For me this was a dream—to do what I’m doing,” Dr. Lalumandier said. “Without Saint Luke’s I would never have seen that dream realized. You can think up great things to do to help people, but if you can’t get the funding, it just won’t get done.”
For more information about giving to the School of Dental Medicine, please contact Heather Siegel at (216)368-3480.