Golisano Foundation to Honor Two Eastman Dental Faculty, Others

Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics International, to Speak at Awards Luncheon

Following Tom Golisano’s recent $12 million gift to Special Olympics International to expand health care services to people with intellectual disabilities,  Ann Costello, director of the Golisano Foundation, announced that the Foundation will present its 2012 Leadership Awards for Exemplary Healthcare Services to six local health care professionals who have demonstrated extraordinary work  to improve healthcare and access to care for people with intellectual disabilities.

All of this year’s honorees have served as Clinical Directors for Special Olympics, providing care to athletes at health screenings that are part of the Healthy Athletes program.

Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Maricelle Abayon, DMD, MS and Lisa DeLucia, DDS,  will be presented with a Tiffany crystal award and a $5,000 donation made by the Golisano Foundation in their names to the charity of their choice that helps people with intellectual disabilities (more about the winners below).

The Golisano Foundation Leadership Award was established in 2010 to recognize and honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary work; to expand access and improve health care services for people with developmental disabilities; change attitudes; and raise awareness for the gifts and talents of people with developmental disabilities.

Tom Golisano, founder and chairman of the Golisano Foundation, will present the awards at the 2012 Leadership Awards Luncheon on Oct. 18.  Tim Shriver, chairman and CEO of Special Olympics International, will be the luncheon’s keynote speaker to honor the awardees’ work on behalf of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program.

The other honorees are University of Rochester Medical Center’s Mary Kate Gedro, CO, Mark Orlando, PhD, MS and Amy Pete, PT, and Joseph Carbone, DPM, of Rochester Foot Care Associates.

Maricelle Abayon, DMD, MS
Dr. Abayon is a dentist at Eastman’s Howitt Urgent Dental Care. She and her colleagues provide emergency treatment to people with developmental disabilities. Without the special attention and the skills Dr. Abayon provides, most of these patients would have been referred elsewhere, likely waiting months for treatment. She sees patients in pain from cavities that could have been treated earlier if dental care had been available.

Even though Maricelle Abayon had several years working as a dentist under her belt, she didn’t have any experience treating people with developmental disabilities and was pretty nervous about it during the required rotation at Monroe Community Hospital, part of Eastman Dental’s advanced education program.

With the encouragement and tips from an experienced co-worker, dental hygienist Andrea Pedersen, Dr. Abayon learned that a little patience, compassion, determination and some creative distractions went a long way. She soon gained confidence and, more importantly, a new sense of fulfillment she had never experienced before. Helping patients feel better who are extremely anxious, fearful, and upset, has been deeply rewarding.

Wanting to learn more, she joined the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Related Disorders (LEND) Fellowship program that was offered at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, knowing that people with developmental disabilities are aging out of pediatric dental practices and would need care. There, she learned the importance of being a culturally sensitive healthcare provider. She also learned that each patient is unique, and should be treated as individuals, rather than those with similar diagnoses. During this time, Dr. Abayon had the opportunity to share daily activities with a person with developmental disabilities and her family, and says it was a very enriching and eye-opening experience.

She also gained valuable experience working with Dr. Wayne Lipschitz in the operating room, but soon realized that only a small fraction of this community receives this service. Because of the significant access challenges facing this community, Dr. Abayon wanted to do more to help.

That’s when she became the Clinical Director for Healthy Athletes Special Smiles in Rochester. During Special Olympics events, Dr. Abayon works to provide athletes dental screenings, oral hygiene education and referral lists. She earned her master’s degree in Clinical Investigation, and completed two post-graduate residencies since arriving in the U.S. in 2006 from her native Philippines, where her father and younger sister are dentists.

Dr. Abayon also leads a workgroup, as part of the area’s Community Task Force on Oral Health for People with Developmental Disabilities, which is studying how to improve access and dental service to this population.

While she knows there is much to be done, Dr. Abayon is happy to be a part of an institution that has the commitment to make a difference.

Lisa DeLucia, DDS
Lisa DeLucia was so attracted to a summer internship opportunity during college, that when she applied to the program and wasn’t accepted, she asked if she could still participate without stipend. She was told yes, and it was that experience, studying children with autism who were on a special diet and shadowing neurodevelopment pediatrician Dr. Susan Hyman, that first sparked her interest in caring for patients with developmental disabilities.

While earning her DDS, magna cum laude, at University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Lisa received guidance from Dr. Steve Perlman, founder of the Healthy Athletes Special Smiles program, in channeling her interests in developmental disabilities into the career field of pediatric dentistry. During her time at dental school, Lisa published research about dental students’ perceptions and attitudes toward providing dental care to people with developmental disabilities, and how they were influenced through classroom instruction and hands-on experiences. She was also very involved in the Special Olympics Special Smiles events as a student organizer, recruiter and volunteer screener, and continues her volunteer work with the organization today.

Dr. DeLucia then completed a pediatric dentistry residency at Children’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and became a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and an active member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, among others. She returned to her native Rochester to complete the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship, which allowed her to gain additional experience in care for people with developmental disabilities, especially with policy issues affecting their access to health care.

Since then, she’s been a staunch advocate by not only treating patients with intellectual disabilities, but also by educating other providers in order to increase their comfort level in caring for and awareness of this severely underserved population.  She led a group charged with gaining provider input about serving this population for the recently formed Community Task Force on Oral Health for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Dr. DeLucia, who finds that caring for this population brings both challenges and enormous rewards, reminds other dentists and health care providers that having an open heart, a little patience and creativity can make all the difference in the oral health and ultimately, the lives of people with disabilities.

Today, Dr. DeLucia teaches pediatric dentistry residents at URMC’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and is faculty for the LEND Fellowship program in hopes of inspiring another generation of oral health providers to care for this population. She also has a private practice in Webster.

This entry was posted in Dental care for developmentally disabled, Educational Program, Golisano Foundation, Special Care Dentistry. Bookmark the permalink.

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