USC University of Southern California

Ostrow Faculty Member Receives Special Care Dentistry Association’s Highest Honor

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Ostrow Professor Roseann Mulligan, Associate Dean for Community Health Programs and Hospital Affairs and Chair of the Division of Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry.

By Beth Newcomb MPH ’13

The Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA) named Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC Professor Roseann Mulligan the recipient of the 2014 Saul Kamen Award during the 26th annual SCDA meeting in Chicago April 11-13.

The Kamen Award is the SCDA’s highest honor and is named after Dr. Saul Kamen, a dentist who devoted his career to improving oral healthcare for individuals of all ages with special needs, according to an SCDA press release about the award. The award recognizes an individual who has been an extraordinary leader in the field of special care dentistry and has greatly contributed to the oral health of individuals with special needs.

Mulligan is associate dean of Community Health Programs and Hospital Affairs, chair of the Division of Dental Public Health & Pediatric Dentistry and the Charles M. Goldstein Professor of Community Dentistry at the Ostrow School of Dentistry. She is also director of the school’s online Master of Science in Geriatric Dentistry program and has a joint appointment in the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Among her many professional accomplishments, Mulligan has been president of the SCDA as well as the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities (ADPD) and the American Society of Geriatric Dentistry. She has also been a member of the SCDA Board of Directors, a fellow in the ADPD and the Gerontological Society of America and a diplomate of the American Board of Special Care Dentistry. She was previously editor of the Journal of Special Care Dentistry and has authored over 100 research articles, review papers, chapters and editorials.

Mulligan said she first became interested in special care dentistry during her first year of dental school when she heard a faculty member discuss a program treating dental patients with special needs.

“From that moment on, I was hooked on special patient care, graduating from dental school with most of my assigned patients being those with special care needs and from there heading to a hospital residency to learn more,” she said. “While at the hospital, I learned how little information there was in the literature about oral health issues and the special needs patient and how limited the focus was.”

Throughout her career, much of which has been spent addressing that lack of information, more attention has been paid to training dentists to care for those with special needs, she said. At USC, Ostrow dental students now have regular rotations in clinics serving the special needs and geriatric populations, including the Ostrow School of Dentistry Special Patients Clinic, which was started by Mulligan in 1985.

Improved provider education has also been accompanied by welcome changes in health beliefs among special needs patients and their families, she added, though more progress still needs to be made.

“In my 36 years in the field of Special Care Dentistry I have already seen notable changes,” Mulligan said. “For example, I do see that for more patients with disabilities, dental care has gone from ‘last on the list of priorities’ for the patients or their families for which there never seemed to be enough time, energy or money; to the realization that oral health care is highly important not only for its own value but also because of its impact on systemic health and overall well-being.”