Nashville dentist receives first American Dental Association Humanitarian Award

Feb. 7, 2008
Recognition honors ADA member for efforts in improving oral health of the underserved.

CHICAGO--The American Dental Association has named Dr. Thomas S. Underwood, a Nashville general dentist, as the first recipient of the ADA Humanitarian Award.

The award recognizes Dr. Underwood for more than three decades of providing dental care to underserved people in the United States and abroad.

The ADA Humanitarian Award's program, which began in 2007, honors dentist members that have distinguished themselves through outstanding, unselfish leadership and dedicating extraordinary time and professional skills to help improve the oral health of underserved populations throughout the world.

"I am delighted that Dr. Underwood is the first recipient of this new and very prestigious ADA Humanitarian Award," said ADA President Mark J. Feldman, DMD. "Through his tireless efforts, he has truly brought smiles and comfort to thousands of needy individuals."

His formal award recognition will occur among his peers Oct. 16-19 at the ADA's 2008 Annual Session in San Antonio.

Dr. Underwood's unselfish efforts have taken him around the world, volunteering from Jamaica and Honduras to Kenya and Zambia. According to Dr. Underwood, he soon realized that such efforts would fill a void in his own home state.

He decided to do something about it and with support from the Nashville Dental Society and the outreach commission of the West End United Methodist Church, he founded the Nashville Interfaith Dental Clinic (IFDC) in 1994.

Today, the clinic has grown from a small, church-basement facility to a full time 7,500-square-foot dental program that provides affordable care to more than 1,200 patients each year.

In the late 1990's, Dr. Underwood began working to help children statewide covered by the TennCare Medicaid program gain access to dental care, with funding dedicated to oral health care.

Today, TennCare dental program has enrolled more than 850 dentists statewide, treating more than 660,000 enrollees from birth to age 20 since it launched in October 2002.

He has held a variety of offices within the Nashville Dental Society and the Tennessee Dental Association, including president of both organizations. He has served as a delegate to the ADA House of Delegates and has held several committee posts with TennCare. He is a fellow of the American and International College of Dentists.

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