February 9, 2017
The ADA has announced that Dr. Usa Bunnag will be awarded the ADA 2017 Humanitarian Award. When a violent tsunami ravaged Southeast Asia in 2004, the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Smiles on Wings, was there to serve. Today, Smiles on Wings (SOW) continues to provide dental care, humanitarian aid, and educational programming to underserved communities in rural areas of Thailand. In November of 2015, Smiles on Wings Founder, Dr. Usa Bunnag was inducted as a Fellow into the International College of Dentists (ICD) and honored for her career-long service to underprivileged populations in rural Thailand in addition to her pro bono work for the Thai community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina after the disaster, and other needy patients. Smiles on Wings is now the honored recipient of an $18,000 grant from the ICD to fully furnish their permanent dental clinic in Phang Nga, in southern Thailand, an area severely affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Smiles on Wings was founded in 2003 with the initial launch of a mobile dental clinic in Northern Thailand, which established ongoing relationships with several communities in the Mae Hong Son and Nan provinces. Smiles on Wings constructed bathhouses and playgrounds, and even engineered water filtration systems for these villages; all in addition to providing regular dental care to these needy communities.  During their missions, SOW teams, comprised of a variety of dental professionals and general volunteers from around the world, helps to improve dental health and general patient well-being by providing communities with necessary dental services and resources. SOW missions promote self-reliance through training in preventive oral care.

Following the devastating tsunami that struck Southeast Asia on December 24, 2004, Smiles on Wings arrived in the stricken Phang Nga province within two weeks of the disaster to provide immediate and direct hands-on relief to victims. Since January 2005, with an additional grant from the American Dental Association, the Smiles on Wings teams have continued to provide dental care to the many orphans and other victims on over ten subsequent dental missions in this southern region. In Fall 2014, Smiles on Wings established a permanent charitable dental clinic at the 35th Rajaprajanugroh School which will be staffed by local and mission volunteers. With ICD’s $18,000 grant, SOW will be able to fully equip and furnish this permanent clinic in Phang Nga, Thailand. There, Smiles on Wings volunteers will provide dental care and health education to over 800 children at the school. In addition, thanks to the ICD grant, Smiles can also extend similar care to other villagers and children in the surrounding vicinity of Takuapa. The new equipment at the clinic will allow Smiles to continue its tireless work to facilitate lasting positive relationships with the communities it serves by building trust, furthering education, and providing positive healthcare experiences.

In recent years, Smiles on Wings has extended its effort to establish self-reliance by providing full-tuition scholarships to young women to study public health and health education. After completing their studies, they return to their villages to lead in these vital sectors. These scholarships, awarded to young women in the impoverished rural villages near the Thai-Myanmar border, serve indirectly to discourage human trafficking by demonstrating the important economic and social roles women can play in local society. Through Smiles on Wings funding for their higher education, award recipients are offered the chance to insure long-term continuation of healthcare and education in their hometowns.

In January, the Smiles on Wings team of volunteers spent two weeks traveling to both Northern and Southern Thailand to provide dental health care and education to rural communities. ICD’s support of international oral health programs like Smiles on Wings ensures the continued improvement of global public health. SOW is excited to offer more dental care than ever before and to create lasting positive dental care experiences for their patients in partnership with the ICD.

We are proud to offer our congratulations to Dr. Bunnag on her well-deserved recognition and best wishes for her future good work. For more information on how to donate or volunteer for a Smiles on Wings trip, visit smilesonwings.org.

CLICK HERE to read full article in PRNewswire

CLICK HERE to read about the Smiles on Wings Donor Celebration

In 2015, the ICD USA Section Foundation contributed $18, 000 to Smile on Wings

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