Partnerships with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Dentistry; BrownGirl, RDH; and Chiefs Flag Football, Powered By GEHA address health inequities.
GEHA (Government Employees Health Association, Inc., pronounced G.E.H.A.) has a storied history of supporting its community with intentional giving, starting in 1937 when the organization was created to help fellow postal clerks after the Great Depression.
This spirit carries through to today, where philanthropic efforts are focused around health equity and positively impacting the social determinants of health. The oral health focus of GEHA Solutions, Inc., a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of GEHA, has provided an opportunity to make a significant vote toward change by investing in three areas that affect community health.
Within the dental and dental hygiene fields, many communities of color are underrepresented within these industries. According to the American Dental Association, fewer than 11% of American dentists come from African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx and American Indian/Alaska Native/Pacific Islander backgrounds, compared with these groups comprising 34.4% of the U.S. population. This can affect long-term health outcomes in many ways: apprehension and omission of care appointments, cultural and language misunderstandings and peer-to-peer dentist learning opportunities to better serve patients. To create meaningful, sustainable change, GEHA Solutions has created a $150,000 scholarship and fellowship investment with the University of Missouri–Kansas City’s (UMKC) School of Dentistry to fund opportunities for students representing historically marginalized communities to advance within these industries.
Representing the largest gift of its kind to the UMKC’s School of Dentistry’s Dr. Roy James Rinehart Memorial Foundation in more than a decade, these investments include five $20,000 dental scholarships, five $5,000 dental hygiene scholarships, and five $5,000 pre-dental fellowships to prepare rising dental school students for testing and interviews. Engagement opportunities throughout the school year with GEHA leaders will also assist in preparing these students for future successes. “GEHA Solutions and the School of Dentistry share a mutual interest in culturally diversifying the oral health workforce through the dental and dental hygiene programs at UMKC,” said Steven E. Haas, DMD, JD, MBA, UMKC School of Dentistry dean. “GEHA Solutions’ generosity will help alleviate some of our potential and current students’ financial burdens and allow them to better focus on their goals. The scholarships GEHA Solutions is providing also will help us to attract and retain the best qualified and most strongly motivated historically marginalized students who seek to represent their communities. We are so very grateful for this unique partnership.”
Consistent with this theme, GEHA Solutions has partnered with national nonprofit BrownGirl, RDH for a $50,000 investment in scholarships and continuing education opportunities for historically marginalized communities pursuing a career in dental hygiene. When most of a patient’s dental experience is spent with a dental hygienist, the opportunity for impact toward health equity was a strategic investment for industry growth. These 16 need-based scholarships will be provided to students throughout the United States, ranging from coverage of tuition to dental loupes and equipment. GEHA Solutions will also be the first presenting partner of the 2022 BrownGirl, RDH Leadership Conference, Presented by GEHA Solutions, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from November 11–13. “Four years ago, an organization like BrownGirl, RDH did not exist. Today, not only are we nationally recognized, but we have brought to the forefront the lack of diversity in dentistry and the importance of introducing the field of dental hygiene to minority students,” said Martelle Coke, founder of BrownGirl, RDH. “BrownGirl, RDH is proud to partner with GEHA Solutions to continue propelling our mission forward.”
Youth sports communities offer great experiences for wellness and mobility, but with this comes a risk for oral impact injuries. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they are not wearing a mouthguard. In the spirit of using GEHA’s partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs as an intentional tool for health equity and community collaboration, GEHA Solutions will provide 20,000 GEHA/Chiefs co-branded mouthguards to the youth participants of the Chiefs Flag Football, Powered By GEHA program this summer. Providing these safety tools allows for participating families to experience one less expense as an entry point to physical team activities.
“From minimizing youth sports injuries to allowing more communities to see themselves in dental and dental hygiene care, GEHA Solutions is committed to being a bridge toward improved oral health and inclusive oral health practices,” said Richard Bierman, J.D., GEHA Solutions President. “Through these intentional partnerships, our investments can evolve population health through students’ lived and academic experiences. We hope that this diversified strategy around health equity inspires others to take action, as well.”
GEHA (Government Employees Health Association, Inc., pronounced G.E.H.A.), founded in 1937, is a nonprofit member association and the largest dental and second largest medical benefit provider of federal employees exclusively serving 2 million current employees and retirees, military retirees and their families. GEHA’s mission, to empower members to be healthy and well, is demonstrated through its focus on innovation as well as providing members with access to one of the largest medical provider networks nationwide.
Headquartered in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, GEHA is one of the largest employers in the Kansas City metro area. For more information, visit www.geha.com.
About GEHA Solutions, Inc.
GEHA Solutions is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of GEHA established in 1997 to market GEHA’s Connection Dental® Network as a solution to lower claims costs for dental payers. Today, GEHA Solutions offers multiple dental PPO networks for lease, as well as a Medicare Advantage Network Option. As one of the nation’s leading dental network leasing companies, GEHA Solutions’ dental networks improve accessibility for clients such as third-party administrators, insurance companies and self-insured employer groups.
About BrownGirl, RDH
Founded in 2018, BrownGirl, RDH (Registered Dental Hygienist) is a non-profit organization promoting cultural diversity within the dental hygiene field. BrownGirl, RDH offers scholarships and supplemental support to dental hygiene students covering costs outside of tuition. These include clinical supplies, equipment, loupes and national and clinical board fees. For more information, visit browngirlrdh.org.
from UMKC Today, your home for all news from UMKC
story by Bryce Puntenney, UMKC MCOM