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Albany Med Receives Grant to Expand Pediatric Oral Health Care Program

ALBANY, N.Y., May 16, 2014 — Albany Medical Center has received a grant from the New York State Health Foundation that will allow pediatrician Melinda Clark, M.D., ’02 to expand a children’s oral health pilot program across Upstate New York.

Dr. Clark initiated the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Smiles Program two years ago to offer targeted preventive oral health services for Medicaid-eligible children with the goals of promoting oral health for young children and early establishment of the dental home. With the three-year $167,772 grant, she plans to work with the statewide WIC Program to develop 36 WIC Smiles Program sites – starting with eight locations this year.

The expanded program, which will cover the state north of the New York City Metropolitan Area, provides patients with an initial dental screening as well as a fluoride varnish, which Dr. Clark said is a known cavity preventer in young children. WIC Smiles will also offer families guidelines for effective oral health care and recommendations for a regular dentist.

Studies show that cavities are the most prevalent chronic infectious disease of childhood. A recent survey indicated that 41% of preschoolers in Head Start and Early Head Start programs showed signs of cavities and of those, 70% had untreated active dental decay.

“Because the pilot has been very successful, I’m enthusiastic about this state-wide expansion,” Dr. Clark said. “We’re helping children, reducing the need for additional health care and saving money. There are very few programs where all three of those come together.”

She added that the support of the New York State Health Foundation is critical to the program’s success.

“The New York State Health Foundation is known for supporting novel ideas and for having the infrastructure to establish and evaluate programs,” she said. “Their belief in our evidence-based and community-minded project is a clear sign the initiative has merit and has the potential to make a difference in the lives of many children across New York State.”

“WIC Smiles has proven to be a low-cost, extremely effective program that brings needed services to some of New York’s most vulnerable children, many of whom have never even seen a dentist,” said James R. Knickman, president and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation. “We are excited to support Albany Medical Center’s work to expand the program to serve as many as 10,000 children annually.” 

Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with more than 400 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: or


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Rich Becker
Extension: (518) 262 - 3421

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