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Susman Family Foundation Gift Supports UT Dental Branch Pediatric Outreach
Over the next five years, when The University of Texas Dental Branch treats children, in many cases their care will be paid for by a benefactor they will never know. And that's the way the Susman Family Foundation wants it. The foundation's $500,000 gift to the Dental Branch will quietly support pediatric outreach, bringing dental care to children who otherwise would not get it.
That care will come in a variety of ways. Some patients will be treated in UTDB's Pediatric Dentistry or Orthodontics Clinics. Others may be seen by the dentists, dental hygienists and students who staff the UTDB Mobile Dental Van when it visits Houston-area locations or the East Texas town of Jasper, where the van works with the East Texas Healthcare Access Network (ETHAN) to treat indigent or under-served patients.
‘ When Catherine talked about the work they were doing
with the children, that really spoke to me'
Peggy O'Neill, D.D.S, Ph.D., associate dean for patient care at the Dental Branch, said Communities in Schools- Houston is probably the chief agency identifying and referring young patients who need dental care, but UTDB has asked ETHAN and Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services to help find appropriate patients, too. Among those treated so far with Susman funds are three pediatric patients who could not afford the orthodontic treatments they needed to correct developmental (not cosmetic) defects, O'Neill said. The funds also were used to help a patient who had been undergoing orthodontic treatment in private practice, but could not afford to continue.
Ellen Susman, executive director of the Susman Family Foundation and wife of foundation co-founder and UT Development Board Member Steve Susman, said they decided to make their gift to the Dental Branch after a meeting with UTDB Dean Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., and other Dental Branch staff members.
"When Catherine talked about the work they were doing with the children, that really spoke to me," Ellen Susman said. "There's nothing more tragic than seeing people lose their teeth at an early age, either through misinformation or lack of funds to take care of something so vital."
Having lost loved ones to cancer, she and her husband also were interested to learn that the Dental Branch treats medically complex patients who need dental care. "Most dentists don't want to work on cancer patients because the risk of infection is so high," Susman said. "But UT Dental is helping educate and train people who can do that. So we're hoping this small gift will make a difference in some way."
Flaitz said the Susmans' gift is deeply appreciated, and the Dental Branch will make sure the dollars are used wisely. "Because of the Susmans' generosity, children will enjoy an improved quality of life," Flaitz said. "So often, children need dental care to grow up healthy and confident. Diseased or crooked teeth can limit social and employment opportunities that ultimately affect multiple generations. Through this partnership, we hope to open a world of possibilities for our young patients."
Within the Susmans' gift is another hope: That someday, the children who benefit may be moved to help others as they themselves were helped.
"If they grow up, do well and make some money, it's possible they may remember they were helped by the UT Dental Branch, and maybe they'll pass it on," Ellen Susman said. "I think that's the goal of anyone who is philanthropic. Maybe it's only one in 100 - that doesn't matter - maybe that one will do the same thing, so the legacy will continue."
By Rhonda Moran
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