America's "Nobel Prize in Dentistry" awarded to Texas dentist

Jan. 27, 2004
The Maryland Academy of General Dentistry has named Dr. Richard R. Garza of Austin, Texas, and Christina's Smile, the Laureate of the 2004 William Thomas Green Morton National Award for the Advancement of General Dentistry.

The Maryland Academy of General Dentistry has named Dr. Richard R. Garza of Austin, Texas, and Christina's Smile, the Laureate of the 2004 William Thomas Green Morton National Award for the Advancement of General Dentistry. The Maryland Academy will present the award to Dr. Garza on April 23, 2004 at its annual meeting in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The Morty, as it affectionately called, is becoming one of dentistry's most prestigious awards. Established in 1997, it has become the America's Nobel Prize in dentistry. It is presented annually "to that individual, organization, or corporation who through clinical accomplishment, education development, basic or applied research, invention or visionary leadership, makes a most monumental contribution to the advancement of the field of general dentistry."

Dr. Garza is pleased to be named recipient of this distinguished award. He states, "This award finally recognizes the hard work of thousands of volunteers in this country who are committed to providing children in need with the dental care they so desperately need."

At the conclusion of 2003, Christina's Smile reached a remarkable milestone. Over 32,000 children have been provided with free dental care valued at $10 million through the Christina's Smile Children's Dental Clinic. The service was delivered in cities across the United States that hosted a PGA TOUR event during the past 14 years, and the mission continues.

Children living in poverty throughout the United States seriously lack access to dental services. With our national health care system experiencing difficult times, citizens are now beginning to realize the dangers that accompany the lack of suitable dental care. High health care costs make it difficult, if not impossible, for impoverished families to receive quality dentistry except through "free clinics" or other such facilities.

One of six children in a hard-working, south Texas family without resources to pay for dental care, Richard Garza first encountered a dentist when he was 17 years old, and needed emergency treatment. He paid for this treatment with money he had been saving for college by working a summer job. This encounter with a straightforward, kind dentist inspired Richard to pursue dentistry.

After graduating from dental school Dr. Garza established a successful private practice, treating patients from all rungs of the economic ladder. His greatest rewards, however, came from treating children whose families had limited resources. He came to realize that many children grow up as he did, without the means to obtain dental care.

In 1989, after having treated many disadvantaged children in his Austin, Texas dental practice, Dr. Garza decided to go beyond the comforts of private practice and give underprivileged children the means to attain good oral health. He was determined to create a program that would impact more children and through a relationship with the PGA TOUR would draw attention to the plight of children for dental care all across America.

In the years since he began Christina's Smile he has worked many months without receiving a tangible salary, and has been away from his family for weeks at a time in providing care to youngsters. By giving up his private practice and traveling the country with the clinic he has demonstrated his commitment to children and to this important cause.

Christina's Smile Children's Dental Clinic in cooperation with PGA TOUR and Champions Tour is a non-profit charity designed to deliver quality charitable dental care to disadvantaged children in communities that host a PGA TOUR or Champions Tour event. The major funding is derived from Roadway Express, Inc. Local volunteer dentists and their assistants provide dental care to needy children previously selected by various charitable groups and organizations. The mobile clinic provides all the equipment, instruments, and supplies necessary to perform dentistry on children who might not otherwise have these services available to them.

Working through these local charitable organizations, 120 children are treated at each three-day clinic. Treatment ranges from routine cleanings and fluoride treatments to sealants, restorations, root canals, crowns, and extractions when necessary. Children may also be referred to community organizations for follow-up care, and numerous volunteer dentists invite children to their private practices to complete necessary dentistry at no charge. Approximately $50,000 to $60,000 worth of dentistry is delivered during each three-day clinic.

In 2003, Christina's Smile conducted 20 dental clinics across the nation, treating approximately 2,400 children, and delivering one million dollars worth of quality dental care. Since its inception in 1990, more than 32,000 children have been provided with over $10,000,000 worth of dental care.

The Morton award was established by the Maryland Academy of General Dentistry to recognize those contributions that fostered improvements in patient care. The award honors that monumental achievement of Dr. Morton, a Massachusetts general dentist, who in 1846 developed and implemented the administration of ether to anesthetize dental and surgical patients. Dr. Morton's development is credited with saving hundred's of thousands of lives that would have died from the excruciating pain of surgical and dental procedures.