Inside Dentistry
Jan/Feb 2006
Volume 2, Issue 1

Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 8th Annual Awards Gala


Contributors to the Mission of the NIDCR Honored at Dinner

Three members of Congress, who underscored their personal and professional relationship with health issues, joined 5 honorees at the 8th Annual Awards Gala Dinner of the Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (FNIDCR) held in November.

With over 160 oral health researchers and supporters in attendance at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, U.S. Representatives Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Sue Kelly (R-NY) received lifetime achievement awards for their respective careers in nursing and biomedical research. They used the occasion to champion their pending bills that would ensure needed restorative surgery for infants with birth defects. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced a Topeka middle school teacher awardee and told the audience that his 2 adopted children received curative surgery in the United States for cleft palate conditions.

The event honored the 2 New York congresswomen, 2 educators, and 2 oral health awareness media contributors. All recipients contributed to the NIDCR’s mission of promoting Americans’ general health by improving their oral, dental, and craniofacial health.

Rep. McCarthy was a nurse living a quiet life on Long Island until her husband was killed and her son injured when a gunman shot randomly into a rush hour commuter train. Turning her loss into a public campaign against gun violence, Rep. McCarthy became a recognized legislative leader for education measures such as gun-free schools, more school nurses, after-school care, and teacher mentoring.

Rep. Kelly’s highly varied career included being a teacher, small business owner, patient advocate, rape counselor, PTA president, and biomedical researcher. Her district includes 2 veterans hospitals and the West Point Military Academy. She was a chief sponsor of the 1998 Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act guaranteeing postmastectomy reconstructive surgery.


The Public Advocacy Award was given to Dr. Julius B. Richmond, an emeritus professor at Harvard who began his career in pediatrics and nonprofit children’s welfare groups. Richmond’s federal health service included heading the Office of Economic Opportunity, where he implemented Project Head Start. Later, as head of the Public Health Service, he initiated neighborhood and migrant health centers, primary care projects, a childhood disease immunization campaign, and national quantitative health goals through the ongoing Surgeon General’s Healthy People reports. His efforts lessened health disparities for disadvantaged groups, provided extensive media information about the state of public health, and helped convince Americans that cigarette smoking was a major contributor to preventable disease.

Returning to his professorship heading Harvard’s Division of Health Policy Research and Education, Richmond chaired the steering committee of the National Academy of Science’s Forum on the Future of Children and Families.


Sen. Brownback presented the DENTSPLY/Harold Slavkin Oral Health Science Education Award to Nancy Lonergan, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Landon Middle School in Topeka.

Lonergan left the financial industry and moved to Kansas to raise her children. She completed her education degree part-time and has taught grades 3 through 8 during the past 16 years.

When students reported that a classmate’s “teeth are bleeding,” Lonergan saw a tremendous teaching opportunity. The Kansas Dental Association helped her create a program focused on oral hygiene and proper care of teeth and gums in relation to the entire body. Students keep a daily log of brushing and flossing with rewards to those who maintain care.

As she moved into full-time ESL, Lonergan noticed that her non-English speaking students lacked familiarity with oral care. She developed a curriculum around health care generally and oral health specifically. It was one of many examples of her classroom creativity and professional dedication, such as her fourth graders’ September 11, 2001, remembrance banner selected for the Kansas Historical Society’s permanent collection.


Sara Ivey, a journalist and television producer specializing in health and medicine, received the Media Award of Excellence. She helped develop a weekly feature on dental health for Dallas’ WFAA-TV, leading to “Baylor College of Dentistry’s Dental Health Check with Dr. Linda Niessen,” which aired first in 1993. Now more than 625 shows have been broadcast to an audience of more than 1 million.

Ivey completes 4 features in a 10-hour production day every month. Ideas come from dentists, patients, publications, Baylor’s Dental College, WFAA-TV staff, and dental organizations such as the American Dental Association (ADA). New trends, procedures, technology, research, and timely patient information drive topic selection.

Ivey also produces programs for several cable television networks and features for corporate industrial videos and nonprofits such as “The Mouth As Mirror” for the Friends of the NIDCR.


A Special Award for Professional Excellence was given to Dr. Linda Niessen, vice-president of clinical education for DENTSPLY International, who is in her 11th year hosting the weekly “Dental Health Check” for the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Niessen has served as president of the American Association of Public Health Dentists, the American Association of Women Dentists, and the Friends of NIDCR.

Additional honor awards were presented to: Dr. Lois Cohen, associate director for international health at the NIDCR; Dr. Moise Desvarieux of Columbia University for his research linking oral bacteria with cardiovascular disease; Dr. Gregory J. Folse of Lafayette, La., for work in outreach dentistry; Nicole M. Stoufflet of the ADA, coordinator of fluoridation and preventive health activities; and Dr. B. Alex White, director of oral health research at Dental Service of Massachusetts.

“These awardees exemplify the far-reaching efforts we seek to honor,” said Dr. C. Yolanda Bonta, FNIDCR president. “Their achievements in public health policy, education, and public awareness further the progress of research for oral health in America.”

The NIDCR is the world’s leading sponsor of research and research training in biomedical and behavioral sciences to improve and promote dental, oral, and craniofacial health. The nonprofit Friends of the NIDCR was formed in 1998 to support the NIDCR. The Friends is a broad-based coalition of individuals, institutions, and corporations who understand the critical importance of dental, oral, and craniofacial health to the wellbeing of society.

For More Information

  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research www.nidcr.nih.gov
  • Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research www.fnidcr.org
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (left) and Dr. Linda Niessen were both honored with awards at the FNIDCR 8th Annual Awards Gala.
Sara Ivey (left), recipient of the Media Award of Excellence, and Anita Bowles, Executive Director of the Partnership for Clear Health Communication.

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