An encounter with a U.S. service member when Cesar R. Sabates was seven years old is one of his happiest childhood memories.
During his introductory remarks to around 60 delegates of the inaugural Give Veterans A Smile Summit at ADA Headquarters in Chicago, Dr. Sabates noted, "I was a kid of Castro's Cuba." "My parents, four siblings, and I took a freedom flight to the United States in 1967, leaving our home in Camaguey." During the flight, I was afraid, but a US military officer offered me a piece of candy shortly after landing in Miami. It was a kind, warm welcome that signaled that everything would be fine."
Dr. Sabates stated that veterans have preserved and defended Americans' rights and freedoms, whether by significant acts of courage or little acts of kindness.
"Yet, millions of veterans in the United States are going without critical oral health treatment," Dr. Sabates stated. "Our community's power to care, be kind, and serve additional miles is on full display today as we join together to advance healthy living, collaborate on solutions, and boost skills to help our nation's veterans."
The summit's goals were clear: bringing people together, collaborating, and learning. Among the topics discussed were:
- assembling data for a national database of charitable veterans' oral health care programs;
- facilitating discussions among participants about the best practices, challenges and opportunities;
- identifying the importance of collaboration between organizations that provide care to veterans; and
- determining whether the ADA can play a valuable role in continuing access to care efforts for veterans.
There were participants from New York University College of Dentistry, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, the Dental Lifeline Network, the Veterans Affairs Center for Care and Payment Innovation, Everyone for Veterans, the Veteran's Smile Initiative, and the Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation.
Around 92 percent of veterans enrolled in VA health care - or approximately 16.6 million people - are not eligible for VA dental care.