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Dental Branch Dean to Serve on Committee for Children's Initiatives
Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., dean of The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, has been selected to serve on the Frew Advisory Committee of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
The 15-person committee will help the agency determine how to use new funding to make it easier for children with Medicaid coverage to get medical and dental checkups. The Texas Legislature approved $150 million for the fiscal years 2008-2009 for strategic initiatives during the budget period to expand children’s access to Medicaid services.
“As both a practicing pediatric dentist and dean of a dental school, I appreciate the importance, firsthand, of educating and training dental students to provide preventive and comprehensive oral health care to underserved children,” Flaitz said. “It is well known that the majority of children receive their dental care from a general dentist and for this reason, the dental curriculum needs to provide comprehensive training in this age group for dental graduates to be competent. Improved training and confidence in managing children with social, physical and economic challenges will better prepare oral health care professionals to continue treating children with special needs in the private practice setting.”
Flaitz added that “positive and routine exposure to children with limited resources will heighten the awareness of the health risks in this vulnerable population, instill confidence in managing these children and help foster empathy for the barriers some of these families have to overcome.”
The new funding is part of a $1.8 billion plan in response to the Frew v. Hawkins lawsuit over utilization of preventive services in children’s Medicaid.
“The Texas Medicaid program covers more than 2 million children – or one out of every three kids in Texas,” said Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins. “It’s important that the families of these children understand the services provided by Medicaid and know how to get checkups and dental care to help children stay healthy.”
Among the committee members are a variety of health care experts from all over the state, four of whom – including Flaitz – are dental health experts.
“We’re bringing together 15 health care experts to help develop a plan for new initiatives to reach families,” Hawkins said. “The committee members have both the knowledge and passion to help make sure children get quality care and services.”
The committee will advise the commission on which strategic initiatives to pursue based on the guidance laid out in the House Bill 15, Section 19(d) passed in the 80th Legislature’s 2007 regular session.
By Natalie Wong Camarata, Institutional Advancement