In the past few years, “dreamers” has been a buzz word in our world, meant only for children of illegal immigrants, who may or may not be deported. But I want you to pause for a few minutes and remember a time when that word was used for all who had a dream to create a better life for themselves. In 1995 while I was president of AAWD, a few members approached me with a dream they had about helping other women. Those dentists, Dr. Judith McFadden of Philadelphia and Dr. Donna Rumberger of New York City, dreamed of a program where women who wanted to enter the workforce and eliminate their dependence on welfare could do so with a confident smile and a pain-free mouth. These women thought AAWD could be the driving force behind such a program, so the idea was brought to our Board. Of course, it was overwhelmingly approved, and a pilot program was started in New York.
Smiles for Success is not just about a smile; it’s about transforming lives! Behind every applicant is a heartfelt story about dentistry, community investment, and personal sacrifice to overcome hardship. The story could not be told without the collective efforts of many to transform an overlooked person into a community success.
Women dentists have often struggled to get where they are today—whether it is securing bank loans, leadership roles in organized dentistry, or promotions in academia. A part of AAWD is having the desire to help other women achieve their goals, which for many of the SFS patients, seems just as far away as dental school graduation did to us at one time. The treating dentists in the Smiles Program get involved in their patients’ stories and are excited to watch the participants evolve during the treatment. They are rewarded again when these ladies write letters telling them they have a job and it is all because of them! So how does this program work? To be clear, the program is not intended to simply provide free dental care for the needy. (There are other places for that care.) The participants who enter the program will receive dental care only after careful pre-selection based on their need for treatment, their performance in a job training program and assessment of their motivation toward achievement. So as you can see, this program indeed takes a community of people to be involved. A successful local program needs AAWD members who are partnered with an agency that actually trains women for an occupation. Some AAWD groups partner with other local charities for clothing and transportation. For the past several years, most Smiles activity has been in the university setting; however, we are looking forward to launching new programs, once again in pilot cities. This Smiles for Success dream has the potential to become very large and unmanageable very quickly, so we are truly fortunate to have International Association Management as our management company, as well as an outstanding SFS Board of Directors, many of whom have served for numerous years.
How can you help? The Smiles for Success Foundation is a 501(c)3 taxexempt, charitable organization, and as such, your donation is tax deductible. First, we need each of our members to donate to Smiles for Success. If you belong to a local or student chapter, hold a raffle or meeting once a year with donations going to SFS. Second, keep your eyes and ears open for organizations and corporations that may be willing to work with Smiles and partner in helping these less fortunate women. It would be a win-win-win for all of us. Many companies want to appear “woman friendly” at this point in time. Let’s give them an opportunity! Last, seriously consider becoming a volunteer treating dentist whenever Smiles announces a program in or near your city.
AAWD turns 100 years old in 2021. Help make Smiles for Success one of the most outstanding contributions to dentistry in the last 100 years! DREAM BIG!