Representatives of NY Statewide Senior Action Council get ready to distribute oral health product kits provided by the
NYS Dental Foundation. The Council is committed to providing education about the important issues affecting seniors today. The Foundation has long been invested in issues involving improving the oral health of elder New Yorkers; in 2006, the Foundation hosted Older Adults Access to Oral Health Care, the first ever statewide symposium focused on identifying challenges and potential solutions to the issue of geriatric oral health.
As I write this, I’m looking out at a world of snow and bare tree limbs. But the sun is out, the sky is a brilliant blue, and the temperatures at least are in double digits – it’s a promising sign of spring, and for me, spring means Give Kids a Smile (GKAS).
Since 2007, the NYS Dental Foundation has given out close to $300,000 to community health centers or service programs as part of its GKAS Award program. In choosing our recipients, our Board recognizes innovation, improved outcomes, and the incorporation of education, screening, prevention and access. Most years, the Foundation honors multiple organizations.
Among our past recipients is PRASAD Children’s Dental Health Program, which has actually won multiple times, for the simple reason that everything it does raises awareness among the community at large that children deserve optimum oral health.
PRASAD CDHP delivers comprehensive services, including education, prevention, detection and treatment, via a state-of-the-art mobile clinic, which alleviates transportation issues within rural Sullivan County, where there is a lack of public transportation. Services are provided through arrangements with schools and local agencies such as Sullivan County Public Health and the Head Start program.
I’ve had the pleasure to present the GKAS Award to PRASAD in person, and each time, I was joined by the entire Sullivan County Legislature as well as many other policymakers and stakeholders. Clearly, PRASAD has a presence and sets an example from which so many organizations statewide can learn.
Leading the dental component of PRASAD is Dr. Cecilia Escarra, who explains why PRASAD works: “We are passionate about our work because we know the difference it makes in children’s overall well-being now and throughout their lives.”
Among the patients who have benefited greatly from PRASAD are adorable sisters Queenie, 6, and Melanie, 7, have been receiving dental treatment and education from PRASAD CDHP since 2017. Their mother Qiian Zhen Liu shared that because the PRASAD dental team specializes in children, she trusts PRASAD’s care and experience.
Ms. Liu and the children have learned about and practice flossing and brushing their teeth twice daily. PRASAD CDHP also provides her children with toothbrushes and floss. She added, “Queenie loves to come, and Melanie, who was nervous at first because she used to have many cavities, is now no longer fearful. It’s a very good program; I love bringing the kids there. The doctors give me good advice. I tell my neighbors to take their kids to PRASAD.”
The Liu family’s story is just one example of why the community trusts PRASAD CDHP. Community members are happy to have easily accessible and affordable expert dental care that specializes in children treating the whole family with kindness and care and teaches them how to take care of their teeth so that they can look forward to a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles.
PRASAD is just one of many organizations that the NYS Dental Foundation has been able to help annually, and I can’t lie – presenting the GKAS Award, visiting these programs, is truly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as NYSDF Chair. To see people hard at work, sharing a passion for improving oral health, and to be but a small part of that, is heartening, and is an excellent example of what your Foundation does on behalf of the profession and the public it serves.
If you know an organization like PRASAD that is worthy of consideration, we are accepting GKAS Award applications for 2023 till April 1. Each awardee will receive up to $5,000, as determined by the full Board. For more information and to access the application, click here.
“The purpose of life is …. to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Those words, written more than a century ago by the philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, encapsulate the life and legacy of Mark J. Feldman, DMD, past ADA president and treasurer and executive director of the New York State Dental Association.
Dr. Feldman died on November 25 surrounded by his family following a long illness.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a friend and mentor, no matter how well prepared we think we are. The feelings of profound sadness and loss are compounded when added to many years of experiences shared, challenges met, campaigns waged, policies developed and relationships nurtured. Without exception, everybody who had the privilege of having known and worked with Mark can attest to his many qualities, not the least of which was his sheer humanity. Mark was a natural born leader, but so too was he a true friend and mentor.
“We all turned to Mark for his guidance and unparalleled knowledge of dentistry’s past, present and future,” states NYSDA President Dr. Kevin Henner. “And in return, each of us received the gifts of his compassion, empathy and thoughtfulness. He never failed to offer words of encouragement when needed most.”
The highlights of Mark’s illustrious career in organized dentistry could be documented by pages upon pages of bulleted resume points, outlining his ascendancy from service on insurance committees to the pinnacle of dental leadership, ADA President. To be sure, those things are black and white reminders of professional excellence, but they pale in comparison to the examples of the real life action leading to solutions that Mark was able to make happen. Ever an effective change agent, Mark was instrumental in so many of dentistry’s paramount achievements, including most recently guiding NYSDA through the perils of the COVID epidemic. Because of his leadership, and the deep respect given him by state and national policymakers, dentistry was at the forefront of negotiations to resume practice.
In explaining Mark’s ability to integrate legislative policy with what made the most sense for the dental profession and, to a greater extent, the greater public good, Dr. G. Kirk Gleason, chair of the NYS Dental Foundation and a longtime friend and colleague, says “Mark always had a clear vision as to what should be done and what was the right way to do it. He understood the balance between the science, everyday practice, administration and the politics to help us all achieve what was best for our members and for the oral health of the public. He will be greatly missed by me, personally, and by dentistry.”
On an organizational level, Mark brought his great gift of statesmanship to guiding NYSDA through some painful growing pains, working tirelessly to garner and retain the trust and support of the membership. He was always available to discuss issues and answer questions, preferring a hands on approach where many in his executive capacity would prefer to delegate. People knew that when Mark spoke, his words meant something.
“He worked long hours, sometimes seven days a week, to advocate for our members and to ensure that they were well-informed,” relates NYSDA Immediate Past President Dr. Craig Ratner. “He managed his team of professionals with expert proficiency, and the results speak for themselves.”
But the greatest achievement in Mark’s life, one of which he was most proud, and understandably so, was his family – his wife of 51 years, Carol Schiff Feldman; two sons, Eric Feldman and Sean Feldman; and three granddaughters, Hope, Riley, and Mara. According to his sons, “As passionate as he was about dentistry, for him, family always came first. Before he retired from practice, he would make sure to get home for family dinner every night. Often he would race off to a meeting of the dental society right after, but time with us was his top priority. This ultimately led to his election as president of the ADA. While he was honored to be installed in the position, he left the convention where he was installed to fly cross-country to meet his first newborn granddaughter. The position of Pop Pop was the one he was proudest of.”
In his passing, dentistry has lost an icon and a legend. Truly, Dr. Mark J. Feldman lived life well, and we who are left behind to mourn his passing can also count among our blessings the fact that we knew him, worked with him, learned from him and, for so many, loved and respected him as the consummate professional and true friend that he was.
The NYS Dental Foundation and the entire dental community suffered a huge loss, with the passing on 11/25/21 of Dr. Mark J. Feldman.
Mark was an amazing individual who helped so many, in so many capacities, throughout his decades-long involvement in organized dentistry. For more than ten years, he lent his extraordinary abilities as a leader and statesman, immeasurably helping the Foundation to grow its mission of improving the oral health of all New Yorkers.
“There are no words to adequately express the sense of loss we all feel,” states NYSDF Chair Dr. G. Kirk Gleason. “Throughout the many years in which I had the great privilege to have worked with Mark, and to have been his friend, I was continuously impressed by his ability to cut through to the heart of any matter and to gain consensus on issues. In particular, I remember a time many years ago when some questioned the need for our Foundation to exist. Mark clearly and unequivocally stated, if NYSDA doesn’t support its charitable arm, what does that say about our profession? His ability to get to the heart of any matter was unparalleled.”
His passing leaves a great and irreplaceable void in the world, and he will be sorely missed.