Dr. Michael McCunniff Recognized for Contributions to Community Dentistry

Praised for his work in attracting dentists for underserved populations, Dr. Michael McCunniff, DDS ’83, has received the Dr. Samuel Rodgers Achievement Award from the Missouri Primary Care Association.

In nominating him for the award, Chris Stewart, CEO of Katy Trail Community Health, said Dr. McCunniff had been “a champion of Community Health Centers and training student dentists” to work there since he joined the UMKC School of Dentistry faculty in 1991. Dr. McCunniff is the school’s director of outreach and chair of the Department of Dental Public Health and Behavioral Science.

Missouri’s Community Health Centers, which typically serve medically underserved areas and populations, were struggling to recruit dentists in 2002 and 2003 into their growing dental programs, Stewart said. But Dr. McCunniff led the UMKC School of Dentistry into its community-based clinical training program and placed UMKC dental students in health centers outside of the Kansas City area for the first time.

Without Dr. McCunniff’s efforts, he said, “our dentist pipeline would not exist.” As a result of UMKC student rotations to the Community Health Centers, and other encouragement of students by Dr. McCunniff, many graduates now go to work at the centers. Stewart noted that every dentist at his center, Katy Trail Community Health, was a UMKC School of Dentistry graduate.

The Missouri Primary Care Association, led by current CEO Joe Pierle, said Dr. McCunniff’s specialty degree and board certification in dental public health made him a particularly valuable advocate for Community Health Centers, especially those providing dental care. There are thousands of the centers nationwide, more than 100 in Missouri and about 80 in Kansas. One in Kansas City is named for Dr. Rodgers, and McCunniff served on its board for several years.

Access to oral health care among underserved populations is also one of Dr. McCunniff’s research interests. His study topics have included evaluation of state Medicaid programs, obesity in children, oral and pharyngeal cancer, the dental workforce and emergency room visits related to oral health issues.