Holocaust Survivors Receive Pro-Bono Dental Care
Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity and Henry Schein, Inc. help Holocaust survivors age with dignity
By Avi Wurman, DDS | Steven W. Kess
As children living through World War II, many Holocaust survivors suffered prolonged nutritional deprivation and received little or no dental care. This neglect compromised their lifelong oral health, resulting in special oral health needs today. Yet 25% of Holocaust survivors in the United States live in poverty, compared to 9% of the general population of the same age, making it extremely difficult for survivors to access the care they need. In response to a call to action from the White House for the development of innovative public-private partnerships that address the needs of this deserving and vulnerable population, Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity and Henry Schein, Inc. created the Alpha Omega-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program.
The program launched in January 2015 with nine pilot locations—Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, Philadelphia, Seattle, Montreal, and Toronto—before expanding to Atlanta, Columbus, and Calgary. More cities are expected to be added in 2016. Since the program’s inception, 140 patients have been treated with an estimated total value of care provided of $500,000.
“When Alpha Omega was approached to participate in this program, we did not hesitate. Applying our skills and expertise to help individuals in need is our greatest calling. It is not only an honor to provide free dental care to Holocaust survivors, but also a great pleasure,” said Avi Wurman, DDS, past international president of Alpha Omega and program co-chair.
The program provides participating patients with a range of dental services, including comprehensive oral evaluations, x-rays, restorations, crowns, endodontic therapy, surgical extractions, and partial and complete dentures. Those eligible to receive care include the most vulnerable survivors served by the network of Jewish Family and Children’s Service agencies or other identified partner organizations, as well as individuals of any faith who were victims of Nazi persecution and meet the program’s eligibility requirements. In addition to financial need, three critical factors are used to prioritize patients for participation: elimination of pain, restoration of function, and lack of dental coverage.
Once eligible survivors are identified, Alpha Omega dental members provide care pro bono. Henry Schein, which catalyzed the partnership, donates dental supply kits and valuable professional support. Town & Country Dental Studios, the program’s laboratory partner, donates laboratory services, if required. Local laboratories also provide services for free or at a reduced cost. The program has several philanthropic partners that generously contribute the financial resources necessary to administer the program.
“Holocaust survivors have lived through unspeakable trauma and overcome incredible challenges. We are proud to partner with Alpha Omega to help this deserving group of people access the oral healthcare they need to support their overall health and wellbeing,” said Stanley M. Bergman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Henry Schein, Inc. “This program is an excellent example of the power of public-private partnerships, demonstrating that together we can make a powerful contribution to helping Holocaust survivors age with dignity and comfort.”
The program has a profound impact on participating dentists as well, with special bonds forming between many clinicians and patients. It has also allowed for scarce emergency funds to aid survivors with other critical needs, including rent, food, and medical care.
Program partners hope that this public-private partnership will serve as a model others can use to help Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable and at-risk groups achieve access to the services and care that they need.
Alpha Omega was founded in 1907 at the University of Maryland School of Dental Medicine. Jewish students were not permitted to form social groups so the Maryland students formed Alpha Omega to fight discrimination. The vision, mission, and values of the fraternity are guided by professionalism, fraternalism, and commitment to Judaic values.
Henry Schein, Inc. (Nasdaq: HSIC) is a Fortune 500® Company and a member of the S&P 500® and the Nasdaq 100® indexes. Henry Schein employs nearly 19,000 Team Schein Members, has operations or affiliates in 33 countries, and serves more than 1 million customers. The company’s global corporate social responsibility program, Henry Schein Cares, enhances access to healthcare for the underserved around the world. The company has been named a Fortune World’s Most Admired Company for 15 consecutive years.
For more information about the program and how to participate, please visit https://ao.org.
About the Authors
Avi Wurman, DDS, is co-chair of the Alpha Omega- Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program and was the 2014 president of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity.
Steven W. Kess, is president of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and is the vice president of Global Professional Relations at Henry Schein, Inc. He is also co-chair of the Alpha Omega-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program.