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Empowering Medicaid Recipients: My Practicum with Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition

I am currently completing a practicum with the Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) to advocate for reinstatement of adult Medicaid, and identify strategies that support successful implementation of the new coverage. I used my background in dentistry to contribute to research on the development of strong infrastructure to remove barriers to access to care for people who qualify for coverage. 


I am a family dentist on two Indigenous reservations and run itinerant clinics for remote and Indigenous communities in northern Canada. I also volunteer in a clinic based out of an orphanage in El Salvador. I truly enjoy clinical dentistry. Over the years it became discouraging to witness the revolving door of issues that were not being addressed at an opportune time to truly impact a person’s life by preventing them in the first place or preventing recurrence. There were so many social determinants of health that seemed to be neglected. I wanted to be part of something bigger that took a proactive evidence based approach to prevention from preconception. I worked with a remote Indigenous community in the far north in directing the development of a new dental facility and dental public health program as well as working as a dental consultant with various Indigenous organizations. These experiences sparked my interest in public health and motivated me to pursue a MPH, and subsequently this internship.  


HOHC has been active in advocating for the reinstatement of diagnostic, preventative and restorative dental care for adults on Medicaid.  Even if the current proposed state legislation is fully passed, there are major hurdles to ensuring that this change in coverage will result in clinically meaningful oral health improvements for individuals.  It will require strong infrastructure in order to secure dentists who will not only sign on as Medicaid providers but who will see and treat patients presenting for care. 


The issue of dental providers enrolling and participating in Medicaid is a complex and multifactorial problem. My research with HOHC focused on the various attempts nationwide to increase dental provider enrollment and participation in providing care to people on Medicaid.  Lessons and experiences from other states can help guide advice for the development of strong infrastructure in Hawaiʻi.  I presented my findings to community stakeholders on May 23, 2022.  


It has been an absolute pleasure to serve as a practicum student with HIPHI. This experience encouraged me to transition into a public health role in dentistry.  I am passionate about focusing on upstream changes to more broadly impact the health and wellness of the patients I serve.

Andrew Davidson, former HOHC Intern

Patrick Donnelly

Patrick Donnelly

Program Manager: Hawai'i Oral Health Coalition
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